Food deserts: Why crisp lettuce isn’t on everyone’s dinner table

The concept of filling the kitchen cupboards and refrigerators with proper nutritious foods is not an option for everyone. For people living in food deserts, a lack of fresh produce is common in their households. Food deserts are areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat milk and other foods that make up a full range of a healthy diet.

Let me put this into reality with the story of Don and his wife Olivia. They live in the center of a food desert, which often reaches 105 degrees in August, and the closest grocery store is outside of a 1-mile radius of their urban area home. With their meager monthly budget and $100 for food stamps, luxuries are unreachable for their family.

Don and Olivia can’t afford name brands, can’t keep vegetables from spoiling and can only make it to the grocery once-per-month. Gas stations are posted on every other block of the neighborhood and the grocery store is out of walking distance, so Don and Olivia resort to the most affordable choices – a $0.75 soda instead of a $1.50 bottle of water, and a bag of chips for $1.50 instead of paying for a bus ticket to reach the nearest grocery store for a fresh vegetable.

Many of us are familiar with the term “food desert” within the rural communities of other countries. However, food deserts are located within mere miles of many of our own homes. Within a 10-mile radius of downtown Indianapolis, there are 22 low-income communities and food deserts to accommodate.

The recent closure of 40 Marsh supermarkets in the Indianapolis area has left residents with at the least a 15-minute car ride commute to the nearest grocery. While this is a common occurrence in much of the United States, we can do our part in our communities and within our families to aid in more opportunities for our neighbors to gain access to the nutritional benefits within fresh foods.

What can we do to help?
  • Grow an urban garden
  • Volunteer at local food banks
  • Donate to local food banks

CarmenBrandyBrandy Carmen lives in Brownsburg, Indiana with her daughter and works at Dow AgroSciences in Indianapolis, IN as the Administrative Specialist supporting the Director of Facilities Services and Real Estate. She is a full-time online student with Indiana State University. On the weekends, she enjoys taking small adventures and photographing historic landscapes and buildings.