Earlier this week, the USDA released its latest online tool that they're calling the nation's Food Deserts.
Essentialy, a "food desert" is any place where there is both low income and low access to food -- as defined by the place having 20% or more of the population living below the poverty line AND there isn't a supermarket within a 1 mile radius in urban areas.
Living more than 1 mile from a grocery store for someone who is low-income and who likely doesn't have a car makes having access to fresh food very problematic. The map, to the left (click to enlarge) shows the food deserts in the Kansas City area (they're the areas in pink). Obviously a large part of the metro lives in a food desert -- particularly in Jackson and Wyandotte counties. Based on their data table, 83,477 people in 31 census tracks in Jackson County alone live in a food desert.
As our nation faces an obesity epidemic - particularly among low-income children -- a look at the availability of fresh food is a major part of the equation. People will not eat fresh food if they don't have access to it -- and too many Jackson Countians do not.
It may be time for Kansas City to look at how to increase the number of grocers in our urban core -- possibly by creating a separate type of business that sells food but not liquor -- that could be eligible to receive tax incentives for opening up business in these select census tracks.
It could be a good start to making urban core neighborhoods more livable for low-income, auto-less, families -- and save money on the back end in public-provided health care.