Food Deserts Have A Hidden Twin. | Writing | Food Newsie

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Food Deserts Have A Hidden Twin.

Food Deserts Have A Hidden Twin.

Last year, knowledge of the Food Desert concept hit its peak. To be sure, the midwest and farm belts make up the largest chunks of inaccessibility to nutritious food when viewed from afar. The investigations were founded on the idea that poor nutrition happens where access to food is hardest. What FoodNewsie is proposing is that another term be introduced; it’s founded on the idea that poor nutrition happens where food is most readily available: A Food Deluge.

DELUGE

noun

  • 1.
    • a severe flood.
    • synonyms: flood, torrent, spate

verb

  • 1.
    • inundate with a great quantity of something.
    • synonyms: inundate, overwhelm, overrun, flood, swamp, snow under, engulf, bombard
    • “we have been deluged with … FOOD.”

Pity and concern was provoked for Food Deserts best in the form of images, graphs and heat-layer maps. There’s no real call-to-action for everyday folks like you and me, but awareness of the problem was generated for the better. What was overlooked was the flip-side of this nutrition problem: Where every neighborhood has more food than needed to feed that population – in an attempt to draw consumers in such a saturated market, prices have to come down and quality is tossed out to keep profits up. A Food Deluge is as unhealthy for humans as a Food Desert.

Food Deserts Have A Hidden Twin.

The red indicates up to a 20 mile journey for groceries. The original study, in orange, only looked as far as 10 miles. While the swaths aren't as wide on the East Coast as they are out west, would you have guessed that there were as many regions as this that qualified as Food Deserts?

Shockingly, the East Coast United States has its fair share of consumers who have to travel up to 20 MILES to get to nutrition. This means passing multiple fast food joints and gas station food shelves – the term Food Desert is defined by the USDA recently as such:

…a low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. …to qualify as a food desert tract, at least 33 percent of the tract’s population or a minimum of 500 people in the tract must have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. USDA pdf

The document is 5-pages long with numerous criteria, so read up on that before you go writing seriously about it. Just a day ago, lawmakers in Florida consider a bill to combat Food Deserts since Orlando, where Disney World is, falls into the numbers of the Food Desert definition. It’s a wicked surprise, isn’t it?

The 1% View

So here’s a neat twist. Pictured below is a map showing in BLUE where populations are heavily stacked up and grouped. If fairness, it’s not clear just what the living conditions are that qualify this but that’s part of the point we’re making – a skewed view. Maps via Food Desert Locator

Food Deserts Have A Hidden Twin.

If you switch the view of the information given for Food Deserts, you see the shadow of its hurtful brother, Food Deluges. Where there's money and concentrations of people, there's too much food to be healthy. It's a strange offset to consider, but if you were upset about the 1% economic view, you might stop to consider if you're in the top 1% of a food availability view. Cue the dramatic music!

All those folks in the BLUE that’s very hard to see, look to make up about 1% of the population that this graphic is about. These folks have more food than food producers and restaurant owners know what to do with. They can over eat blueberries and kale and doughnuts and bacon and whipped cream in the dead of Winter. These are Food Deluges. It contributes to food waste and I hope no one likes food waste in the extremes that this implies.

The twist is that this 1% of the nutrition talk might make up about half of the 99% of the “We are 99%” economic talk that overran cities four and five years ago leading to sit-ins and a constant uproar on Wall Street and in the 6:00 o’clock news every night. If you’re in an area with competing grocery stores, would you ever consider yourself to be in the 1%?

What’s your view? How do you feel when you stop to think that every nutritious grocery you don’t buy stands a better chance of being thrown out with yesterday’s news while some equally deserving consumer has to shlep 15 miles for the same opportunity? Over competition in populous areas has created a hazard for nutrition and there should be some light shone on that. It’s a discussion that no one’s having.

Is the concept of a more equal distribution of nutrition as absurd as the concept of a more equal distribution of wealth? I hope not because both the populations in Food Deserts and Food Deluges would benefit – if only the food 1% recognized that Food Deserts have an equally dangerous flip side.

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