18th, February 2013
The problem of “Food deserts” has become of major concern in the United States of America. Different individuals and organizations are seeking ways of addressing this growing problem, for the well-being of all Americans, and the United States as a country. Through this collective effort, it is probable that this problem will soon be solved, as currently, this is being given the attention it deserves. If this problem gets working solutions, the United States will once again have a healthy population and reduced cases of health-related conditions. This essay therefore, compares and contrasts some of the concerns raised by different authors in various articles about the “food desert” problem.
An article in the Los Angeles Times, by Hernandez Daniela focuses on the commitment by the United State of America’s first lady Michelle Obama, in addressing the food desert problem in California, and other regions of the United States of America. This article also includes and talks about what Wal-Mart is doing and plans to do in future to contribute to the solutions of the food desert problem in different regions of the country. Additionally, the article focuses on the efforts of other random people and organizations in the US, in trying to deal with the food desert problem. On the other hand, the presenters addressed the situation of food desert problem in the area of Chicago (Hernandez, 2011).
In both Hernandez’s article and the presentation by the presenters, poverty is identified as key reason why most people cannot afford a healthy nutritious meal. Additionally, both address the strategies, which have already been put in place to address the food desert problem, are discussed. According to the presenters, one of the ways the government is currently addressing the food desert problem is through the provision of a link card for poor families. This way, the poor families can afford to buy food. Previously, without government intervention through the introduction of link card program, poor families had no alternative but to starve whenever they lacked sufficient money to buy their food. These among other strategies in Washington DC area have been addressed. The article by Hernandez on the other hand, has also identified strategies the first lady and the Wal-Mart stores have already put in place to address the food desert problem. The First Lady Michelle Obama has by now launched a program in California to help address the issue. This is called the “California Fresh Works Fund,” a $ 200- million partnership, which brings together the grocers in California, different financial institutions in the area, as well as different healthcare providers in the area. This initiative by the First Lady of the United States aims at the development of more grocery stores, and other ways through which health foods can be made available to people in California, especially areas faced with insufficient supply of health food. The incentive of this fund is only to retailers who sell more health foods and less junk, these are entitled to a little more grant than others who sell a lot of junk food. On the other hand, Wal-Mart future plans in place in order to help address the food desert problem. This has promised to open more stores, about 300 more, by the year 2016. These will be opened in areas that are highly affected by the food desert problem (Hernandez, 2011).
In another article by Achenbaum Emily, the strategies, which the residents of Roseland have taken to address the food drought problem is addressed. This article shares the same sentiments with the presenter. Both acknowledge the fact that people living in food deserts are more prone to suffer serious health problems related to poor nutrition, because, these have no choices for health food apart from fast food. While the presenters addressed the food desert situation in Chicago, this article has mainly focused on this problem in Roseland. However, from these articles, the problems in these two areas seem to be similar. In both cases, residents have to drive a long way to reach a grocery store. However, the price of gas comes in their way, and so, most will shop from their nearest store with junk food. The residents of Roseland and Chicago areas adopted different strategies to address the food desert problem in these areas. With the help of National Center for Public Research, residents of Roseland in 2008 launched September’s National Food Desert Awareness Month. On the other hand, in Chicago, the “Healthy Corners DC” program was launched. This program funds a specific number of grocery stores to provide health food to residents in the area. This program in Chicago has so far helped in changing the food desert situation in the area (Achenbaum, 2008).
Just like the presenters did, the article by Wehunt Jennifer in the July 2009 issue of Chicago Magazine, similarly addresses the food desert scenario in Chicago, and identifies the strategies in the area, which aim at solving the problem. However, the strategies identified by this article, and those identified by the presenters are different. This shows that both did not exhaust the strategies in the area. Therefore, one might conclude that Chicago is taking all necessary steps to end the problem, as it considers the problem to be a big issue that needs to be fixed as fast as possible (Wehunt, 2009).
Wehunt in her article has explained the food desert problem as it is in Chicago in detail, compared to the presenters. Wehunt has defined what a food desert is before embarking on detailed revelations about this problem in Chicago, and its neighborhood, Roseland. However, thy both agree that the food desert problem in Chicago has mostly affected the African Americans, since these are more than the whites living in this area. Additionally, both Wehunt and the presenters have addressed the effects of the food desert problem on the affected population. Both agree that this leads to nutrition related health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and obesity. Additionally, both Wehunt and the presenters have identified the fact that there is hope for Chicago, as far as the food desert problem is concerned. According to Wehunt, the food desert in Chicago has tremendously shrunk, considering the situation in 2006 and the situation as it is today. More grocery stores have been opened in Chicago, thereby reducing the magnitude of the problem. On the other hand, the presenters acknowledged that with the help of the First Lady and various authorities in Chicago, more groceries have been opened in the area, and so have farmers started cultivating healthier food crops. Additionally, the presenters identified the effects of the various programs in the area to address this issue. All those programs have realized positive effects as the food desert problem in Chicago is on the decrease today. With this information from Wehunt and the presenters, it is then possible that very soon; Chicago will never experience the food desert problem (Wehunt, 2009).
The article by Gray Stephen also addresses the food desert problem in Chicago, just like the presenters did. However, Gray takes a different approach in gong about this situation. While the presenters identified and presented the facts directly as they are about the situation in Chicago, Gray has based his facts indirectly on a story of a young businessperson, who is a grocer. Nonetheless, in both cases by the presenters and Gray, it turns out that the African Americans are most affected in Chicago. Additionally, they both identify poverty as the main factor leading to food deserts. Although the presenters did not address this in details, Gray goes ahead to link the relationship between poverty and food deserts. According to Gray, low-income earners do not spend on health foods, since these are expensive, therefore, grocers situated in such areas lack profitability in their business. This therefore, drives them away to neighborhoods with high-income earners, who value healthy eating, and will therefore, shop for health food, regardless of what time of the month it is. Unlike the presenters, Gray goes ahead to suggest another alternative way of addressing this issue. From the youngman’s experiences selling groceries, most African Americans, who are low-income earners lack sufficient information on the importance of healthy eating. This therefore, makes them settle for the cheap junk food in convenience stores. This is why most food deserts are located in regions occupied by low-income earners. Therefore, Gray identifies educating the masses as a way of helping solve the food desert problem (Gray, 2009).
The article by Leete, Laura, Bania, Neil and Sparks-Ibanga, Andrea, in the Journal of Planning Education Research addresses the food desert problem, but introduces a new concept “Food Hinterlands,” in the process. Unlike the presenters address on the issue, this article is more detailed and comprehensive, and use literature review to draw more information on the problem, as well as shed more light on it. The presenters on the other hand, were brief, and more straightforward in the presentation of their facts. The purpose of the journal article is to advocate for the improvement of policies related to food shortage among the low-income families. The presenters on the other hand presented their facts only for the purpose of learning and creation of awareness about the case in the confines of a class. While the presenters focused on Chicago, this journal article focuses on the food desert problem in Oregon and Portland urban areas (Leete, Bania & Sparks-Ibanga, 2011).
In the journal article, there is research about a new phenomenon relating to food access, while the presenters were not concerned with development of any new phenomenon with regard to food access. According to the authors of the article, some food deserts were not located in areas occupied by low-income earners. This is contrary to the presenters, who identified low-income earners, as living in food deserts. This scenario was noted in the Portland area, upon the authors’ study. In this area, some low-income earners living in areas of low food access, but which are miles away from the known food deserts. Since such areas are small, the government has failed to identify them and help them address their food needs. The authors therefore, name these “food hinterlands.” Although they are not located in the main food deserts, they equally suffer a limited food access, and there is no help coming their way because of their location, which is hard for government to notice or identify. Therefore, the journal article is complex, compared to the presenters’ presentation. The authors of the journal article conduct a study and in their findings come up with the “food hinterlands” phenomenon. This was aimed at helping government and other bodies to incorporate policy and planning in these areas, with regard to food access (Leete, Bania & Sparks-Ibanga, 2011). Therefore, although this article addresses the aspect of food deserts, its complexity in the presentation of facts is different from that of the presenters. Nonetheless, all the articles that have been compared and contrasted carry useful insights on the case of food deserts in the United States.
Food desert – an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.
Pgs. 2, 3, 4, 5.
Grocery – items of food sold in a grocery store. Pgs. 3, 4, 5.
Health food – natural food that is thought to have health-giving qualities. Pgs. 3, 4, 5.
Junk – pre-prepared or packaged food that has low nutritional value. Pgs. 3, 4, 6.
Nutrition – the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth. Pgs.
Achenbaum, E. (2008, September 1). Roseland residents aim to end drought of grocery stores.
Tribune Reporter. Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-09-01/news/0808310257_1_grocery-convenience-food-deserts
Gray, S. (2009, May 26). Can America’s Urban Food Deserts Bloom? Chicago Times.
Hernandez, D. (2011 July 22). Michelle Obama, Wal-Mart and the ‘food desert’ problem. Los
Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/22/news/la-heb-fruits-vegetables-poor-communities20110722
Leete, L., Bania, N., & Sparks-Ibanga, A. (2011, December 12). Urban Food Deserts and
Food Hinterlands. Journal of Planning Education and Research 2012, 32: 204.
Wehunt, J. (2009, July). The Food Desert. Chicago magazine.
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