Oh, wait, no, that’s food deserts. My bad.
A food desert is an area of residential housing that is underserved by traditional grocery store but often over-served by fast food stores. These tend to occur exactly where you’d think they’d occur; in poor neighborhoods. Being poor and living in a food desert makes it almost impossible to make healthy food choices. Now, you would think that a great solution would be to bring grocery stores to this area. A few studies have recently been released that show when a grocery store finally comes to a food desert, the dietary habits of the residents don’t really change much. What’s going on here?
Well, first off, it’s only a couple of studies so there may be certain things not controlled for, but the studies certainly pass the smell test. So why would poor people choose to still go to the fast food joint when there’s a much cheaper and healthier alternative right next door? If you took $10 worth of groceries and $10 worth of McDonald’s stacked side by side the choice seems absolutely preposterous. You can make many meals out of the groceries but only one from the McDonald’s. Look closer, though. See the problems? That McDonald’s value meal is ready to eat right now. No cutting vegetables or measuring out spices. No stirring of sauces or browning of meat. No washing of dishes or cleaning the kitchen. It takes five minutes to get fast food while cooking and cleaning can take an hour or more. And that’s just one out of three meals. We are so used to having time that we don’t realize how much of a luxury time actually is. And it’s a luxury that the working poor can not afford. There are second jobs to get to and precious sleep to catch up on. How are you going to throw fresh food into that mix?
So if grocery stores aren’t the answer, what is? I’ve always been a fan of something along the lines of a slow food co-op. The basic idea being that there is a kitchen somewhere that can cook very large portions of healthy meals and local residents can come in and pick up these meals for slightly less than what you’d pay at a fast food restaurant. The kitchen is local, the workers are local, the patrons are local. All that plus the locals can eat healthier and save slightly more than they had been with their fast food choices.
It’s a very simple idea. Of course, how to implement something like that is well beyond my pay grade. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Churches would probably be a good bet. It’s times like this when I wish I knew someone who actually knows something about these things.