http://www.fooddeserts.org/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]