Food Deserts

Over 200,000 people in Indianapolis are impacted by food deserts. Let’s look into what a food desert is, why it matters and what is being done to help.

Indianapolis is a desert. You might not think so with the lack of sand, heat, and cactus but it is a large desert. Okay, so it’s not a literal desert but it is considered a food desert. WFYI reported that according to a study by SAVI, there is an estimated 208,000 people living in a food desert in Indianapolis, that is 1/5 of the Indy population. Southwest Indy is part of that food desert.  Let’s look into what a food desert is, why it matters and what is being done to help.

What is a Food Desert?

Ohio University defines food deserts as “areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.” In addition to that definition, this 2014 Newsweek article states that Urban areas are considered a food desert if residents have to travel more than a mile to reach a store and rural areas are food deserts if residents have to travel more than 10 miles. A food desert is not a place that people have no access to food, rather they do not have access to healthy food. This access is often limited by things like

  • High store prices
  • Distance/Location
  • Time (People are unable to get to the store in time because of things like jobs)
  • Transportation ability

Why It Matters

One of the biggest issues with food deserts is they cause health risks to those affected. Because food deserts have a lack of nutritional food, most people have to turn to unhealthy options. This can cause major health problems. It also can affect those with food allergies as they most likely cannot get food that is safe for them to eat. According to an article by Esperanca, those living in food deserts have lower mortality rate largely due to health concerns.

How Food Pantries Help

One way people are combating food deserts is with food pantries. Food pantries are places where people in need can go get food for them and their families. Food pantries can help aid people affected by food deserts by removing those barriers that prevent residents from receiving basic and nutritional foods.

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest obstacles people living in a food desert face is lack of access to a grocery store or market. People have to rely on closer places like convenience stores which do not have as many options for adequate food. Food pantries can reach many people without forcing them to travel far by filling in the gaps that are without a grocery store. Some food pantries are even mobile which makes it even easier for people to get healthy food options. Food pantries help people be able to save money for other needs and still be able to get nutritional food.

Mary Rigg is here to help those living in a food desert through a weekly food market each Wednesday.  You can find more information about the Food Market here, by following us on social media, or by signing up to receive text messages here.