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Food Desert Population

Food deserts are correlated with low income neighborhoods, health and nutrition deficiencies, and fast food restaurants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food deserts are defined as ‘areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet’ (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012). The CDC also states that there is no standard definition of food desert, however the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a food desert as a census tract more than 1 mile from a supermarket with at least $2 million in annual sales (urban definition), and that at least 20% of the people living there are poor (US Department of Agriculture, 2012). This report uses the definition of any area more than 1 mile from a grocery store selling fresh fruits and produce as being in a food desert. The reason is because some small stores also sell produce that meet the CDC’s definition and also some areas that are not necessarily poor, but are not within a mile to supermarkets will not be covered by the USDA definition.

Texas has the lowest number of supermarkets per capita in comparison to other states in the country (Manon, Giang, & Treering, 2010). The economic model that finds it strategic to locate a fast food store in a food desert is clearly different from the model that is used to locate grocery stores. Low income persons have to shop more frequently for retail items since they do not have enough stored wealth or storage space to stock up on consumer goods. Recently we have seen the emergence of several Farmer’s Markets across the city (Turner, 2012). The increase of Farmer’s Markets suggests that there is a local demand, which traditional grocery stores are not meeting. There are also reportedly more than 125 community and school gardens across the city (Blackburn, 2011).

Sustainability Benefit: The Food Desert in Houston is getting smaller.

Sustainability Issue: More than 700,000 people in Houston do not live within a mile of a grocery store selling fresh fruits and vegetables.


Food Desert Population in the Sustainable Development Goals

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