Recent Articles About Food Deserts

In the late 1990s, Brahm Ahmadi worked on environmental justice campaigns to shut down polluting factories in Oakland’s low-income communities. He lived in West Oakland, a predominately African-American neighborhood, where his work sometimes kept him in his own backyard. As a young organizer, a big part of his job was community engagement. Amidst the ongoing dialogue, Ahmadi repeatedly encountered complaints about the lack of access to a decent grocery store. What he was hearing—from one resident after another—was that they were tired of having to travel to stock up on basic foods.

For awhile, we’d just say, ‘thanks you for input,’ then we’d park it,” says Ahmadi. “But it kept coming up. After awhile I realized it wasn’t just a tangent.” Read more

There are two options for buying groceries near Cathy’s home in West Oakland, California: a tiny and sometimes expensive co-op and a 99 cent store. Although she loves the co-op, they’re only open until 8 p.m. during the week and 4 p.m. on weekends. The 99 cent store is open until 9 p.m., but its produce and dairy offerings are limited and often teeter on the edge of their expiration dates. Read more

Dennis Lane has owned a 7-Eleven franchise in Quincy, Massachusetts for 42 years. He says many of his customers use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) benefits to buy staple foods.

“I sell 150 gallons of milk a day in my neighborhood,” he said. “A lot of those folks use SNAP.”

Soon, Lane’s store’s SNAP eligibility could be in question due to a recently proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that would require retailers to stock an expanded list of foods to remain eligible for participation in the food assistance program. The rule would also eliminate from the SNAP program retailers with 15 percent or more of their store sales from hot, prepared food. Read more

President Obama’s visit to Flint, Michigan, last week brought renewed focus to the impacts of environmental racism.

Far too many minority families live in toxic and impoverished environments. They live next to congested interstate highways, emissions spewing power plants, and smog pumping refineries. Flint’s crisis is the result of negligence by city and state officials, but it also reflects a larger reality about what it means to grow up poor in America.

Like many cities, Flint is also a wasteland for affordable sources of nutrition, making it a classic food desert. Read more

These days, Beatrice Evans finds herself talking to her neighbors on the bus more than usual while she’s commuting to her part-time job at a telemarketing firm. She doesn’t just make conversation with other passengers; Evans has an agenda. She thinks her fellow commuters should know about a city program that essentially gives low-income folks like her free produce at farmers’ markets.
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Most celebrity chefs do more than appear on TV and hawk cookbooks and frying pans. To name but a few on a very long list: Tom Colicchio uses his Top Chef fame to bring awareness to healthy school lunches; Marcus Samulesson works with global humanitarian relief organization UNICEF; MilkBar’s Christina Tosi helps create jobs for recent immigrants; and D.C.’s Jose Andres has a foundation to fight food insecurity. In other words, a lot of the chefs you’ve heard of are probably working to change the food system in some important way. Read more

Elaine Brown is no stranger to radical ideas. The 72-year-old former chairwoman of the Black Panther Party has long advocated on behalf of prisoners. Now she is determined to transform a once-blighted vacant lot in West Oakland, California into a thriving urban farm business that employs former offenders. And the produce they cultivate is destined for a fine dining restaurant in a city fast gaining a reputation as an eating destination. Read more