In the midst of a worldwide pandemic and raging protests against police brutality, there’s another silent crisis wreaking havoc on America’s most vulnerable communities: food deserts.
The lack of grocery stores in many poor, Black neighborhoods has been a focus of public policy since Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign in 2010. The “Let’s Move” initiative was designed to reduce childhood obesity by providing better food in schools and by promoting healthier options in low-income communities using public and private sector funding. Another chief goal of the “Let’s Move” program was to eliminate food deserts in America within seven years.
A food desert is an area with low-access to healthy and affordable food. About 19 million people in America live in a food desert, and it disproportionately affects Black communities, according to CNBC. Despite nationwide efforts to improve poor food environments, many of the biggest names in America’s grocery industry (CNBC named Kroger and Walmart) continue to avoid these neighborhoods.
The USDA defines a food desert as a place where at least a third of the population lives greater than one mile away from a supermarket for urban areas, or greater than 10 miles for rural areas. By this definition, about 19 million people in America live in a food desert.
The worldwide Coronavirus pandemic and protests against police brutality with civil unrest are other reasons for the propagation and spread of food deserts. In some cases arson and looting has destroyed business, and the businesses don’t return to the damaged neighborhoods. Black activists have blamed the retailers for abandoning underprivileged neighborhoods, and Rev. Jesse Jackson even called for a boycott.
Meanwhile dollar stores, such as Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, have expanded in the United States. However, these stores have a disadvantage because they lack fresh food — fresh meat and produce.
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