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What is a Food Desert?

Posted: March 15, 2019

Recently, Senator Mark Warner announced his plans to re-introduce a bill called the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act. The bill is designed to eliminate “food deserts” by offering tax credits to businesses opening markets in areas where fresh food is scarce and/or not easily accessible by residents. Availability of better quality food not only helps in weight management, but one’s overall health.

What is a food desert? H.R. 4260, the bill initially introduced to Congress in November, 2017, defines it as such:

“A food desert must be more than 1 mile away from a grocery store in a metropolitan area or more than 10 miles away outside of a metropolitan area. It must also meet population requirements and have either a poverty rate of at least 20% or a median family income that does not exceed 80% of the median for the state or metropolitan area.” – (Source: Congress.gov)

People who live in areas designated as food deserts may not only find affordability an issue when it comes to buying fresh, quality food, but transportation. For example:

  • A person without a car is unable to drive to a grocery store.
  • A person who doesn’t live close to public transportation may have difficulty getting to a grocery store.
  • A person able to use public transportation may not be able to buy everything they need, factoring in carrying bags home.
  • A person on a fixed income may not be able to afford charges incurred by home delivery and/or rideshare/taxi fares to and from a grocery store.

These are just a few examples of how one may qualify as living in a food desert. This doesn’t necessarily mean people in these areas have no access to food at all. Convenience stores and fast food restaurants may be within reach, but under the definition of the term such places do not count as access to fresh produce and food with high nutritional value.

For more information on food deserts and the progress toward access to better food, visit the American Nutrition Association.

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Weight loss and weight management come easier when one has the right tools and support close at hand. Environment also plays a role in a person’s weight loss journey, as it can affect your progress. At Bon Secours, our physicians, nutritionists, and practitioners offer a full continuum of care in addition to online support for patients looking for the right solutions. Contact us today for more information.

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