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Food Deserts in the U.S. (Part 2)

The existence of higher numbers of restaurants, convenience stores, and liquor stores increases the population's risk of food insecurity (Freeman, 2015; Hilmers et al., 2012; Hipp, 2010). Families who are impoverished or struggling financially tend to have a poor diet and eat less nutrient-rich meals (Alkerwi et al., 2015; Basu et al., 2016; Heflin, 2017). It seems lower-class city dwellers consume meals high in processed sugar, carbohydrates, and fat, but low in micronutrients and lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables (Basu et al., 2016; Walker et al., 2011).

Gregory and Coleman-Jensen (2017) showed an association between food security and health outcomes in their USDA food insecurity report. Their data analysis shows lower food security and higher possibilities of chronic diseases like - hypertension, coronary heart disease (CHD), hepatitis, stroke, cancer, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease. In some cases, chronic diseases can define food security better than income. For example, adults in very low food-secure households are 10.5% more likely than adults in high food-secure homes to be diagnosed with hypertension. Adults in very low food security households were 15.3% more likely to have any chronic illness than those with high food security. Adults in homes with marginal food security were 9% less likely to report excellent health than those in households with increased food security and 1.3% more likely to report poor health. The number of chronic conditions for adults in homes with low food security is, on average, 18% higher than those in high food secure households.

Owens et al. (2020) conducted a similar study on food deserts in Alabama and identified some common issues, such as a lack of grocery stores, transportation (un)availability and affordability, limited income, limited skills, tools, and space for growing fresh food. They also focused on the impact of these problems on the obesity epidemic and chronic diseases. Poor diets are disruptive to cognitive functioning and reduce productivity, which has resulted in increased incidences of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They suggested programs to combat this food desert issue: the farm-to-school program, Tuskegee University Urban Farm Program, Community Gardens, the mobile Food Market, and the healthy food financing act. They also suggested redesigning transportation routes, expanding the accessibility of mobile food markets and nutritional food education, expanding food co-ops, establishing municipally owned grocery stores, expanding farm-to-school programs, and increasing the number of community gardens.

Food deserts and health-related literature also emphasize childhood obesity and mental trauma due to a lack of nutritious foods. According to micro-level observations, childhood obesity is more common in underprivileged neighborhoods with an abundance of low-nutritional-value foods. This leads to bullying, which causes an increase in anger, depression, and violence (Issner et al., 2017; Walters, 2020). The study also showed that healthful meals vary among U.S. populations, particularly in socially and economically underprivileged neighborhoods. Race, ethnicity, social support, culture and language, access to care, and living environment contribute to cardiovascular diseases and type two diabetes (Ferdinand 2017). Rodriquez and Maraj Grahame (2016) showed that access to the food supply, a component of the mesosystem, influences people's dietary decisions. Participants remarked that they would like to consume fresh fruits and vegetables but frequently do not have the opportunity to do so, according to survey answers. It was challenging to get to a place where people could buy healthy food due to transportation shortages. Due to a lack of mobility, people were forced to eat only what was offered at nearby food sources, such as convenience stores. Convenience stores typically offered less nutrient-dense foods and carried few to no fresh goods.

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