Food Deserts


Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program.

I moved from the Ida B. Wells homes to Wentworth Gardens in 2007. There’s a corner store and a gas station near Wentworth but no restaurants or large grocery stores. So the location is not ideal for a huge, more substantial grocery-shopping trip, which is needed from time to time. What the corner store and gas station do have is lots of unhealthy junk food, some loaves of bread and milk. They both do not have a lot of healthy choices to choose from.

I have to go a farther distance to shop for the necessary healthy foods that I have to eat. So, I am usually limited to unhealthy choices.

At the Ida B. Wells homes, there was a corner store called Atlanta Foods, which was much better than the one I have to shop at now. It was right across the street from the Wells. There was also a Sun Rise Foods Grocery Store down the street, a restaurant called Quick Bite, another restaurant called Baba’s. Along with a gas station, there was a beauty supply store, Blue Sea restaurant, and countless larger grocery stores, like Jewel, and restaurants like Subway on 35th Street.

Now at Wentworth Gardens, I have to walk up to 35th if it is the weekend because the 39th street bus does not run on the weekend. So I catch the 35th Street bus. Other times I just travel on foot to shop. So it’s hard sometimes.

According to research and consulting group, Mari Gallagher, the area in which I now live is considered a Food Desert. Food Deserts are large geographic areas with no or distant grocery stores. Residents who reside in food deserts face nutritional challenges, which can lead to improperly balanced diets and health problems.

Instead of choosing healthy options like fruits and vegetables or fresh fish, people who are experiencing my situation have limited choices and often resort to eating chips, candy and high sugar drinks.

As communities become more limited with food choices, residents are at greater risk to develop diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and hypertension. All of these health issues can lead to death.

The study shows that more than half a million Chicagoans live in food deserts and approximately 400,000 Chicagoans live in areas where fast food restaurants are closer that the nearest grocery store.

African-American communities are more likely to have the largest total years of life lost due to deaths from diabetes. As well, white communities that have an imbalance of food environments also have a large number of residents perishing prematurely from diabetes.

The study shows that low income African Americans are the most disadvantaged when it comes to having balanced food choices. They also travel the longest distance to any kind of food store. Most of Chicago food deserts are in low-income African American communities.

In an average black community, the closest grocery store is approximately twice the distance as the closest fast food restaurant. The food desert situation contributes to many African Americans buying unhealthy food because that’s what they mostly have access to.

According to the study, six out of 10 American adults are overweight and nearly one in three are obese. Half of all meals are consumed outside of the house, mostly at fast food restaurants.

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Categories: UYIJP