Published: Oct. 26, 2020

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Food insecurity is when an individual or family does not have reliable access (in a socially acceptable way) to enough affordable and nutritious food for an active and healthy life.


Who is at Risk

  • Vulnerable populations that are disproportionately affected by food insecurity include children, the elderly, ethnic minorities, and low-income households
  • Children are more likely to face food insecurity than any other group in the United States
  • BIPOC  families are twice as likely as white families to face food insecurity, as shown in the graph below
  • In a study done by the ERS, people with low levels of education, weak social networks, and/or living in a low-income neighborhood located in a food desert caused the likelihood of food insecurity to increase

What is a food desert?

Food deserts are defined as “regions where people have limited access to healthful and affordable food in a socially acceptable way.”  This term is not meant to imply that these regions are undesirable places to live, but rather to address the lack of accessible healthy food.  They present an opportunity to create a “food oasis”, which is a term that can represent a solution.

Some specifications for what is defined as a food desert are as follows.

  1. In order for a region to qualify as a food desert, at least 500 people or 33% of the area's population must live more than one mile from a large grocery store in urban areas and more than 10 miles from a large grocery store in rural areas. 

  2. It is currently estimated that 23.5 million people in the US live in areas that qualify as food deserts. Nearly half of these people are also low-income. 

  3. The amount of food deserts in the United States may also be under-reported because small corner grocery stores are placed in the same category as large supermarkets. However, these corner stores often do not sell fresh or healthy food such as fruits and vegetables. 

  4. Due to a lack of transportation or financial means, people who live in food deserts may rely more heavily on fast food. This can lead to an increase in health problems in food desert regions, such as an increase in diabetes and obesity. 

  5. Food deserts does NOT mean there is no food! It refers to a lack of easily accessible healthy and affordable food… and accessible in a socially acceptable manner!

Living in a food desert and food insecurity usually goes hand in hand. Many people who live in a food desert experience food insecurity quite often since they don’t know what they will be able to afford or how far they will need to travel to get it. Food insecurity often leads to making unhealthy decisions, such as buying cheap fast food, since it is the most convenient option when living in a food desert. This can lead to a lot of health problems and unhealthy lifestyles.

  It is important to understand the impacts of food deserts and how prevalent food insecurity is in our society today. We must dedicate time and resources to food deserts because every family deserves to have confidence that they will be able to afford to nourish themselves and their loved ones every day.

While food deserts are a large problem in the United States, things are being done to begin to improve this issue.