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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Food deserts should embarrass residents

From the Baltimore Sun: Report: One in four Baltimore residents live in 'food deserts'.

Which leads to today's discussion of supply and demand.

Remember the song, "Nashville Cats" by the Loving Spoonful?
Yeah, I was just thirteen, you might say I was a
Musical proverbial knee-high
When I heard a couple new-sounding tunes on the tubes
And they blasted me sky-high
And the record man said
'Every one is a yellow Sun Record from Nashville"*
And up north there ain't nobody buys them
And I said, "But I Will"
So it goes with healthy foods. In the food-stamp heavy districts of urban America, stores carry potato chips and tons of other read-to-eat foods, but no actual potatoes, carrots, or green leafy substances that are not smoked.

That is because stores are not museums. They stock the things people buy. Food stamp recipients buy junk food over healthy food.

Instead of shaming people who use taxpayer money to buy junk food, we get this nonsense:
One in four Baltimore residents lives in a "food desert," according to a new study released Wednesday by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who pledged to improve access to affordable and healthy food.
In the 2015 Food Environment Map Report, researchers defined food deserts as areas where distance to a supermarket exceeds a quarter-mile; the median household income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level; more than 30 percent of households lack a vehicle; and there's a low score on the so-called healthy food availability index.
"We've never analyzed the food environment at this level before," Rawlings-Blake said, calling the report a "monumental step forward" in making Baltimore a healthier city. "I know that we can increase access to healthy and affordable foods as we move forward to dismantle this inequality in our city."
The study, by the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, found that children are disproportionately affected, with one in every three living in a food desert. The study also found that African-Americans have less access to quality food."When we look at many of our neighborhoods, there are life-expectancy disparities as much as 20 years," Rawlings-Blake said.
Rawlings-Blake said she is confident the report will become a national model for food access reform.
The best food access program would be prohibiting food stamps from buying potato chips and other snacks.

* Actually Sun Records was located in Memphis but Memphis Cats didn't sound right.


  1. I'm not disagreeing with you, Don, but those criteria that define a food desert are pretty arbitrary. For example, no supermarket within a quarter-mile radius? A quarter-mile is just a 10 minute walk. 99% of the population should be willing and able to walk at least double 10 minutes to go shopping. And note, it's not just a grocery store or a corner market but a SUPERmarket. In my entire life, I've only lived once (and briefly at that) in a residential area that had a neighborhood supermarket within 2 miles.

    As for the disparity of 20 years in life-expectancy, that number is suspect. The national mortality tables from the Census Bureau and the Social Security Admin show that on average African-Americans do not live quite as long as other racial groups, but the difference is shrinking and now (thankfully) only about 3-5 years. Most of the discrepancy is attributable to the fact that so many young black men kill each other with guns. It's not because of food deserts. When the gun fatalities are eliminated, the disparity in life-expectancy is much smaller and largely associated with racially-based diseases of genetic origin, not food and diet.

    1. I live about 2 miles from my nearest grocery store, and 6 from the next nearest (and 2 more within another mile). Were any groceries burned and/or trashed in Baltimore? In Ferguson?

      Also, I don't trust the statistics, and like Iapetus, the arbitrariness of the criteria.

  2. Maybe a way to attract and keep food stores would be prevent rioting and looting instead of "giving them space." But, that's just my opinion.