According to the USDA, on average, about 27% of the population can be considered “low-income (with) low access to a supermarket or large grocery store” placing them squarely in what the USDA call a “food desert.” All told that’s about 23.5 million people out there who have to travel more than a mile to gain access to fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. But if you think that’s bad – just wait until you hear about a food swamp. No, seriously.
According to a study at the University of North Carolina, despite what you might think, living near a supermarket had very little impact on how healthy their diets were. What really gave America its gluttonous glow is the ubiquity of the convenience store and fast food chain. These food swamps are filled with “calorie-loaded packaged foods, gallon cups of soda, and other sugar-loaded beverages, and fast-food chains peddling burgers, fries, and fried chicken.” In fact, the UNC says that there are now five fast-food restaurants for every one grocery store in America.
It’s not just that these highly salted highly fattening food choices are tastier and more convenient, you also have to remember that big business spends $4.2 billion (with a ‘b’) on marketing these artery clogging bio-engineered weapons. So even if you don’t want them, you do. You really really do. In fact, you need them. The man in the glowing box tells you so.
So, do you live in a food desert? You can use the free USDA Food Dessert locator to find out for yourself. In the meantime, politicians and other officials are working to battle America’s problem with obesity by changing zoning restrictions on these fast food locations as well as convincing large supermarket chains to open up more stores in areas hit hardest by the recession. Just don’t put them too close. God only knows we could use the exercise.