Food deserts: creative ways to improve access to healthy food

Food deserts are areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Limited access to healthy food and easy access to junk food may be linked to poor diets and, ultimately, to obesity and diet-related diseases. Unfortunately, food deserts exist in both urban and rural settings in the United States. For example, residents may have limited access to healthy food because they live far from a supermarket, they do not have easy access to transportation, or the food is too expensive. Some people may even have to do their own grocery shopping at convenience stores because that is the most accessible store in their neighborhood.

One strategy to help decrease the number of food deserts in the United States is to increase local sources of fresh food through urban gardens. In addition to combating food deserts, urban gardening can educate youth about food and health and provide them with practical skills. One unique national project is Truck Farm, a mobile garden education project. It’s a mini-farm planted in the back of a biodiesel-fueled pickup truck. This “Garden-on-Wheels” is a traveling educational project connecting kids to local food and health.

The Truck Farm program operates across the country and in many major urban centers, including Chicago, IL. In Chicago alone, more than 600,000 people live in food deserts. By focusing in the south and west sides of Chicago, Truck Farm Chicago reaches poorer neighborhoods with the least access to healthy food. And by working with the public school system, it connects easily to subjects students are studying like social science, science, and PE.

Other ways to make healthy food available to people in urban areas include:

  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Rooftop gardens at apartment and office buildings
  • Community gardens in local parks or other green spaces

Finding creative ways to improve access to nutritious food not only leads to healthy residents, but also builds community. Has your community implemented creative strategies to improve access to healthy food? Share your experiences here!

Want to know more?

CDC Food Deserts:

CPPW: Birmingham, AL’s Solutions to Urban Food Deserts

Community Gardens:

Truck Farm:

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