Exploring Food Deserts: Causes & Effects

In summary, food deserts are urban areas lacking in facilities like shops, social centers, and public transportation, making it difficult for residents to access healthy food options. The term was originally used in the early 1990s and has since been defined as areas where people experience barriers to accessing healthy food. The presence of discount supermarkets does not guarantee access for all residents, especially those with physical limitations.
  • #1
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
What is a ‘food desert’?

The term ‘desert’ was used to describe an urban environment lacking in certain facilities as far back as 1973 when J BAINES (The Environment) wrote “The large suburban estates that are a recent feature of the townscape are epitomised by the regular rows of similarly styled houses that have earned for themselves the title of suburban deserts. They often lack the shops, churches, public houses, and social centres that allow a community life to develop”.

Food deserts were defined, by the Low Income Project Team in 1996, as ‘areas of relative exclusion where people experience physical and economic barriers to accessing healthy food’. The actual term ‘food desert’ is quoted, by S CUMMINS (British Medical Journal, 2002, Vol.325, p.436), as having been originally used by a resident of a public sector housing scheme in the west of Scotland in the early 1990s.

The Observer of 21/1/1996 spoke of ‘fresh food deserts’, in the following passage:-

“The healthy eating boom that swept muesli-belt Middle England through the 1980s by-passed Tipton [a poor area of the West Midlands]. Money was tight. Like thousands of other communities across Britain, it had been transformed by the exodus of the big supermarkets to out-of-town greenfield sites into what the experts call a ‘fresh food desert’ – Judy Jones, ‘The fast food trap’

This quote sourced from www.wordspy.com/words/fooddesert.asp, accessed 8/2/03.

Although cheap supermarkets (e.g. the discounters, Aldi, Netto, Lidl, or the Co-op) often have locations on the poorer estates, and usually have a good range of fruit and vegetables, this does not guarantee that all people living on these estates have ‘access’ to these food items. Although smaller than the out-of-town supermarkets such as the Tesco Extras, the size of these discounters means that they are generally located at a density of around one per square kilometre. Many disabled cannot walk as far as 500 metres, and have difficulty even boarding low-floor buses. They are certainly likely to have difficulty carrying shopping on or off buses, and with carrying several bags of shopping by hand any distance. Once such a person has bought the ‘essential staples’ of their shopping, such as bread, tins of pet food, soap powder, and so on, their carrying capacity for items such as fruit and vegetables is very limited. [continued]
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
My grandfather was still delivering "Meals on Wheels" when he was 100. He used a little motorized vehicle (three-wheeler) in the indepedent living community where he lived.
  • #3

As a scientist, it is important to understand the concept of food deserts and their causes and effects. A food desert is an area where there is limited access to healthy and affordable food options, often due to a lack of supermarkets or grocery stores. This can be caused by various factors such as urbanization, poverty, and transportation limitations. The effects of food deserts can be detrimental to the health and well-being of individuals living in these areas, as they may have limited access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods. This can lead to an increased risk of diet-related diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. Additionally, the lack of access to healthy food options can also contribute to food insecurity and malnutrition. As scientists, it is important for us to study and address the causes and effects of food deserts in order to find solutions that can improve the health and well-being of those living in these areas.

1. What is a food desert?

A food desert is an area where there is limited access to affordable, nutritious food options. Typically, these areas are low-income and may not have grocery stores or farmers markets nearby.

2. What are the main causes of food deserts?

The main causes of food deserts include poverty, distance from grocery stores, and lack of transportation. Other factors such as food prices, food quality, and cultural barriers can also contribute to the creation of food deserts.

3. How do food deserts affect the health of individuals and communities?

Food deserts can have a significant impact on the health of individuals and communities. Limited access to nutritious food options can lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Food deserts can also contribute to food insecurity and malnutrition.

4. What are some potential solutions for addressing food deserts?

There are several potential solutions for addressing food deserts, including improving access to transportation, increasing the number of grocery stores and farmers markets in these areas, and implementing nutrition education programs. Community gardens and mobile food markets are also effective solutions for providing fresh, healthy food options in food deserts.

5. How can individuals and communities help combat food deserts?

Individuals and communities can take action to combat food deserts by supporting local farmers markets, advocating for more grocery stores in their area, and volunteering at community gardens. Education on healthy eating and cooking can also empower individuals to make healthier food choices. Additionally, supporting organizations and initiatives that work towards addressing food deserts can make a significant impact.