In many areas around the country, the only places to get food are often fast food restaurants or small convenience stores that don't sell fresh produce. Places like this, known as "food deserts" because of the lack of places to get fresh food, contribute to the country's obesity epidemic and leave residents few choices of what to eat. In fact, the Department of Agriculture says 23.5 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, now live in low-income areas more than a mile from a supermarket.
Food deserts are a fairly new phenomenon, in this report older residents of small Mississippi towns can recall a time when there were general stores in town and when people grew their own food. Some farmers, church communities and community organizers are trying to bring back more food choices for area residents by building awareness and starting community gardens and farmers' markets. First Lady Michelle Obama is also working to eradicate food deserts from a government standpoint by pledging $400 million to help underserved areas get more grocery stores and food options.
"We can't tell people to buy fresh food if there's no place to buy it, right?" - First Lady Michelle Obama
"It's really hard, because, you know, when I was coming up, we had greens and gardens and all that. But now you have to buy produce. So, it's real hard for the kids. I mean, and the majority of them, they eat like pizzas. And that's obesity." - Jennifer Hoskins, resident of Lambert, Miss.
"I had a malnutrition problem when I arrived. I have a malnutrition problem now. Back then, it was the absence of food or the unavailability of food that was the problem. And now I have got this abundance of food." - Dr. Al Rausa, Mississippi State Department of Health
"We just got to teach our kids about healthy eating, and teach them where food comes from, and teach them what they need to know about it." - Cornelius Toole, farmer
1. Where is the Mississippi Delta?
2. Where do you get most of your food from?
3. What are the characteristics of a desert? What do you think the term "food desert" means?
1. Why do you think there is such a lack of grocery stores in "food deserts?" How do you think that came about?
2. Can you think of a neighborhood or town near you that might be considered a "food desert?" What characteristics make it one?
3. If you lived in a "food desert" and had to find a way to get more fresh food to your area, what would you do? Why?