Sample Essay On Relation Between Food Deserts And Poverty Rates
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Food deserts can be considered as geographical areas where residents face a challenge of accessing affordable and safe food option, including vegetables and fresh fruits. The condition of the food inaccessibility is influenced by non-existence of inaccessibility to supermarkets and grocery stores within areas of existence. Facilities in urban areas like transport may help residents quickly access nutritious foods due to convenient vicinity of food outlets. However, the advantage of urban areas has not sealed the problem of the food desert due to other economic factors. Economic forces have resulted in grocery stores moving out of the main cities, and consequently people have to undertake several transport facilities like train or buses to shopping for fresh produce. This condition places major cities at an equal risk position as rural regions. According to a survey report by Economic Research Services of Agricultural department of United States, about 2.2 of US households resides in more than a mile away from safe food outlets. Public transport is the dominant type of transport in rural areas, and it can either be unavailable or unlimited resulting to difficulties accessing supermarkets (Ghosh-Dastidar et al., 2014).
Nutritious and fresh foods are more costly compared to fast foods in food deserts. For example, the price of vegetables and fruits in US markets rose considerably to about 75% by 2005 while the cost of sugary and fatty foods dropped drastically to about 26% at the same time (Widener & Shannon, 2014). Such price factors have been major points of consideration for most families. High cost of healthy foods puts most households beyond their financial ability and, therefore, opts for economically cheaper and unhealthy eating habits. The long term effects of constrained access to nutritious food are the suffering from diet-related conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases among others. The complications accounts as one of the statistically leading causes of deaths in US.
One of the major defining features of food deserts is the social-economic factors commonly attributed to colored and low-income populations. According to studies, areas with a considerable amount of wealth are characterized by more than twice the number of supermarkets and grocery stores found in poor regions. According to a study by Raja, Changxing Ma & Yadav (2008), the white neighborhoods feature an average of three times of number of major outlets as black ones do. Studies have further established that black-American populations usually have smaller stores with a narrow range of selection. Choice of foods to eat is significantly influenced by the available options in addition to affordability choices. Most food desert sells a broad variety of fast foods at affordable rates. The varieties include cheap dairy-based products and processed meat. The products are usually high in sugars, fat, and salts. According a medical point of view, processed products in convenience outlets are unhealthy for human consumption.
The state of food and health among Americans has raised more concerns due to the rising cases of diet-related complications and obesity. Research by health officials and national attention among policy makers seeks to establish the reason for persistent food deserts. Apart from the food environment among US residents, other concerns relate to factors influencing individual choices about the type of food to eat and when to eat. Some of the large contributing factors include the availability of safe foods in major supermarkets, the price of what the outlets provide and the type of marketing employed to present food products to consumers. A contentious issue of discussion is the affordability of healthy foods, which are often over-priced compared to fast foods. The situation of inadequate accessibility to safe foods such as low-fat dairy, fresh produce, and whole grains creates a situation of the food desert.
For a tract to qualify as a food desert, it has to meet some standards including low access to safe foods and low income among residents. A tract with poverty level of 20% and above qualifies as a low-income. Further, if the income of a median family is below 80% of the median household income for the neighboring metropolitan area, a tract is still considered as low-income (Whitacre, Tsai & Mulligan, 2009). Many outlets stand a chance to offer safe and affordable foods, including grocery stores and other joints. However, the definition of the food desert focuses on large outlets such as supermarkets, large grocery stores, and supercenters. According to a standard definition, such outlets offer a variety of affordable foods at convenient locations
As much as low-income areas are much associated with food desert, population with higher poverty rates are more related to low access to affordable and nutritious foods. For instance, residents with low incomes in the Northeast of America often faces a problem obtaining food compared to other parts of the country. The relation can be associated with the dense population of residents in the Northeastern cities. Suppliers find it more profitable to operate in densely populated areas due to the sufficient sales volume.
The persistent nature socio-economic disadvantages associated with food deserts reflects the welfare of the poor population who considers food deserts as sustainable food harbors during their difficult times. The prolonged exposure to the unhealthy environment has a long term effect on social-economic condition and health. According to a period of 20 years research investigation, there has been a population loss of about 10% in urban areas conversely to an increase of 1% in the rural population. The changes imply a less transition to state of food deserts, meaning that the situation remains dominant in the main American regions. Growth in population may indicate that people are approaching more profound state of food accessibility while loss in population suggests chances of an environment with safer and nutritious foods.
Transport plays a crucial purpose in food accessibility among residents in particular areas. The way of travel to supermarkets in food desert areas also determines how accessible the food is. The American community Survey and the Census provide information on how people travel from work to their homes in terms of distance and time taken. Along the way, working population finds it convenient to shop at outlets on the way regardless of the safety of food provided (Zepeda, Reznickova & Lohr, 2014). The commute pattern differs in different regions and also influences the choice of food among the population.
Commute pattern in rural areas differs from the transport in the urban area. Residents in rural areas (food deserts) often have longer commute distance compared to residents in urban areas. The measure of this difference is determined by a threshold of travel time. Set at 45 minutes to and from work. The disparity in commute time among the two counterparts may be attributed by the over-reliance on public transport by rural food desert areas. Residents of urban areas use private transport reducing the commute time considerably to less than 25 minutes. Despite access to vehicles, some residents in the food desert urban areas use other means of transport such as walking and biking.
The information on differences in means of transport among different regions helps explain their ability to access nutritious and healthy foods. The disparity results from social-economic factors in both groups of people. Research suggests that rural food desert population appears more disadvantaged socially and economically due to inadequate access to food and vehicles for transport. Improving their economic conditions can greatly influence their ability to access supermarkets and other safe food outlets (Widener & Shannon, 2014).
The challenges identified above in both urban and rural food desert areas seem to be more vast and persistent. While this paper seeks to establish the causal relationship between the demographic and social-economic conditions, and persistent food deserts, the paper also projects that food deserts in more likely to prevail in low-income areas. However, the problem of limited access to food may result from a vast array of factors.
Inconclusive research has been done to ascertain the real causes of food deserts in cities and rural areas of United States. As described in this paper, there is an implicit assumption of the effects of supply-side factors to conditions of food deserts. However, this study could not establish an authentic study that systematically examines the effects of free forces of demand and supply in influencing existence of food deserts. Transportation may be a demand issue especially in suburban settings. However, it would be necessary to distinguish issues relating to low-income population and other issues contributing to food accessibility in food desert areas. Apart from the lack of nutritious food in an area, corresponding scarcity of other social products may also account for the disparity in social and economic environment.
Ghosh-Dastidar, B., Cohen, D., Hunter, G., Zenk, S., Huang, C., Beckman, R., & Dubowitz, T. (2014). Distance to Store, Food Prices, and Obesity in Urban Food Deserts. American Journal Of Preventive Medicine, 47(5), 587-595. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2014.07.005
Raja, S., Changxing Ma, & Yadav, P. (2008). Beyond Food Deserts: Measuring and Mapping Racial Disparities in Neighborhood Food Environments. Journal Of Planning Education And Research, 27(4), 469-482. doi:10.1177/0739456x08317461
Whitacre, P., Tsai, P., & Mulligan, J. (2009). The public health effects of food deserts. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.
Widener, M., & Shannon, J. (2014). When are food deserts? Integrating time into research on food accessibility. Health & Place, 30, 1-3. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2014.07.011
Zepeda, L., Reznickova, A., & Lohr, L. (2014). Overcoming challenges to the effectiveness of mobile markets in US food deserts. Appetite, 79, 58-67. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2014.03.026
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