Is it impossible for you to find fresh affordable fruits and vegetables near your home? Sounds like you live in food desert. Unfortunately food deserts are a common problem all over the country, especially in low-income communities. Instead of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods, residents find bodegas selling processed junk. If you can find healthy foods in a food desert, they are most likely going to be very expensive, and the quality may be poor. Restricted access to nourishing food leads to a number of health and societal issues, not to mention frustration for those who desire a more just food system.
If you live in a food desert, here are my tips for overcoming your lack of options, and changing the community in everyone’s favor:
1. Find a store (if you can) that at least sells the basics. Cabbage, collards, carrots, broccoli, etc. These foods are very healthy, and used in a wide variety of cuisines. Also, don’t forget how nutritious beans and lentils are. You may be able to find them in your local bodega/corner store.
2. Make a trip to a good grocery store to stock up on essentials. Non-perishables like frozen fruits and vegetables, canned products, spices, nuts, and seeds will keep for months. Also, take a grocery shopping trip online. While you may not be able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables online (unless a service like Fresh Direct will come to your neighborhood), but you can find other healthful foods like legumes and grains on Amazon.com
3. Grow your own food. It’s not that difficult, and is rewarding in so many ways. Food deserts occur in rural, suburban, and urban places. If you live in a rural or suburban food desert, you may have access to a small plot of soil to grow your own vegetables. If you live in the big city, like I do, a window garden, or indoor growing of herbs, sprouts, and micro greens may have to do. In cities there are plenty of community gardens too.
4. Rally your neighbors. Seek people in your community who also want better access to fresh food. Together you can ask your local grocery stores to carry fresher and healthier options at affordable prices. You can reach out to your local representatives. You can put together a CSA (community supported agriculture/farm partnership), create a community Coop, or start a local farmer’s market. When the demand is clear, the supply will come.
Have you ever lived in a food desert? What are your tips for eating a healthy diet despite local access to great food?
Check out these links for more information about how communities are tackling food deserts