11 Facts About Food Deserts

  1. Food deserts are geographic areas where access to affordable, healthy food options (aka fresh fruits and veggies) is limited or nonexistent because grocery stores are too far away.
  2. The US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service estimates that 23.5 million people live in food deserts. More than half of them (13.5 million) are low-income.
  3. Approximately 2.3 million people (2.2 percent of all US households) live in low-income, rural areas that are more than 10 miles from a supermarket.
  4. The North American Industry Classification System places small corner grocery stores in the same category as grocery stores like Safeway and Whole Foods.
    • This means that a community with no supermarket and two corner grocery stores that sell liquor and food would be counted as having two retail food outlets, even though the food offered is greatly limited.
  5. Residents living in food deserts also have a hard time finding foods that are culturally relevant and that meet their dietary restrictions.
  6. First Lady, Michelle Obama’s campaign to fight childhood obesity, “Let’s Move,” has a goal of eradicating food deserts by 2017.
  7. There is a $400 million investment from the government towards this initiative, which will go towards providing tax breaks for supermarkets that open in food deserts.
  8. You can find food deserts near you with the USDA’s new food desert locater map
  9. White neighborhoods have on average four times as many supermarkets as predominantly black and Hispanic ones do.
  10. With no other options, people living in food deserts get most of their meals from fast food restaurants.
  11. The death rate from diabetes in a food desert is twice that of areas with access to grocery stores.

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Sources: USDAThe New York TimesFood Empowerment Project, US Department of Agriculture