What is a Food Desert?
Food deserts are areas without access to nutritious, high-quality, affordable food within close proximity. The USDA defines them as any area with a 20% or greater poverty rate, and where a third or more of the residents live more than a mile away from a supermarket.
These underserved communities are susceptible to health problems due to poor diet and rely on fast food chains in order to sustain themselves.
This leads to a diet high in caloric value and low nutritional value.
People living in food deserts are also at higher risk of struggling with food insecurity.
Communities who face this challenge are susceptible to diseases like Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and morbid obesity. These diseases can be prevalent in future generations, making them more prone to health complications at a younger age.
Is Riverside a Food desert?
Building and creating community gardens for these underserved communities can help them have access to fresh produce in their area, while also building a greater sense of community by joining together and working for a common cause.
One good example here on campus is the R'Garden. It is open to all students and is a great place to learn and explore gardening, agriculture, sustainability, food security, and more!
Another way to contribute is by donating to food banks in food-insecure areas. One last thing that might help alleviate these communities is if farmers' markets reach out to them and start selling near their neighborhoods so that they are able to access the freshest produce.
According to a study done in 2018, Riverside is considered a food desert in areas where poverty exceeds 25%. This is not only unique to just the Riverside area. Places such as those in the Coachella Valley area and San Bernardino suffer from food insecurity and do not have readily available access to the foods they need to live a healthy lifestyle.
Karen Washington and Food Apartheid
Activist and community organizer Karen Washington has been battling for food justice for three decades. She is opposed to using the expression "food desert", she prefers "food apartheid," which brings us to the more important question: What are some of the social inequalities that you see, and what are you doing to erase some of the injustices? "'Food apartheid" looks at the whole food system, along with race, geography, faith, and economics," Karen says. "When we say 'food apartheid', the real conversation can begin."
If you're currently experiencing food insecurity, UCR has resources to help. Yes, even during COVID-19! Take a look at the following resources.