Food deserts and food insecurity leave tens of millions of families across America unable to access affordable nutritious food. We hear from a lot of these people at Patients Rising Concierge. We’re going to tell you a bit about this issue then focus on some resources you can use to help yourself or your family. If you’d prefer, you can just jump down to the RESOURCES section.
WHAT ARE “FOOD DESERTS” AND WHAT IS “FOOD INSECURITY”
Food Deserts are areas where access to affordable and healthy food options is limited or nonexistent. Living in a food desert is one way to end up with food insecurity. Feeding America clarifies that while “Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level.”
Over ten years ago, the USDA had estimated that nearly 23 million Americans lived in a low-income area where the only grocery store was over a mile away (food deserts). According to a more recent CNBC article, about 19 million Americans are still living in these food deserts. The problem is not going away.
CONSEQUENCES OF FOOD DESERTS
There are a lot of issues that contribute to food deserts. Race, ethnicity and other social determinants contribute to the why and where. The same issues make public investment in solutions slow.
FoodIsPower.org found that “wealthy districts have three times as many supermarkets as poor ones do, that white neighborhoods contain an average of four times as many supermarkets as predominantly black ones do, and that grocery stores in African-American communities are usually smaller with less selection.
“People’s choices about what to eat are severely limited by the options available to them and what they can afford—and many food deserts contain an overabundance of fast-food chains selling cheap “meat” and dairy-based foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt. Processed foods (such as snack cakes, chips and soda) typically sold by corner delis, convenience stores and liquor stores are usually just as unhealthy.”
PATIENTS RISING CONCIERGE
At Patients Rising Concierge we research programs and services to help solve your problems, and we teach you how to do the same. During the Coronavirus, many Americans came face to face with completely new challenges, like food insecurity, housing instability, loss of work and health insurance, or difficulty finding a safe place to get treatments for chronic diseases. The Concierge service and Patient Navigators were there to help by finding resources that could help those people on the local, state and federal level.
Call us at (800) 685-2654 or email us.
Here are resources that will help you address food deserts and food insecurity.
ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE, NUTRITIOUS FOOD
One great program started in NYC was the Green carts campaign! The idea is similar to a farmer’s market. These green carts go to areas in the city where there normally isn’t access to fresh food. Live in the area? Check out the link here to find out more info! https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/cdp/green_carts_areas.pdf
TIP: You can look for farmer’s markets in your area by simply search “farmer’s market + [whatever your zip code is]”
Struggle Today, Strength Tomorrow – Founder and creator Nicole talks from experience and shares great strategies for thriving without money. Check out https://www.struggletodaystrengthtomorrow.com/how-to-eat-no-money/
Savethestudent.org (a UK nonprofit) compiled a great list of ideas on how to get food at a better price, or even a free meal. https://www.savethestudent.org/save-money/food-drink/how-to-get-free-food-as-a-student.html
Moneyless.org talks about deliberately reducing the influence of money in your life, but the resources there are helpful regardless of why you don’t have money. Check out https://moneyless.org/no-money-food
Rob Greenfield has a great blog on how to eat healthy while living in a food desert, and there are a lot of ideas on how to find healthier options, what to make, and how to not spend a ton doing so. https://www.robgreenfield.org/healthyeating1/
Meals on Wheels America has information on their sites if you qualify. Info can be found here: https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/find-meals
If you need help getting to these places, Need Help Paying Bills has information on where to look for rides.
If you can get to one, food pantries are a great place to look into for food options. Feeding America and Foodpantries.org have a search options on their site where you can see what options are close by.
Feeding America – https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank
FoodPantries.org – https://www.foodpantries.org
Rally Health has some tips and tricks on their site to help find ways to maximize what you have access to. https://www.rallyhealth.com/food/do-you-live-in-a-food-desert-8-ways-to-eat-healthy-if-you-do
If you don’t have access to these sites, or maybe are pressed for time on internet surfing, you can call your local government agency and ask them. Many Social Services departments have information on these programs. You can find your local office info here: https://www.usa.gov/state-social-services
WE’RE HERE TO HELP
The resources we have listed here are the very same resources we share with people who contact us through Patients Rising Concierge. But, if you need one-on-one help, we are here to help.
(800) 685-2654 or email at AskUsAnything@patientsrising.org.
Samantha Smith has part of the chronic illness community for the past 7 years. After getting sick fresh out of college her life changed drastically. Samantha found passion in helping others and in running, even combining the two. She is President of G-PACT, a non-profit supporting the digestive tract paralysis community. Samantha has lobbied congress, spoken at conferences, published articles, and advocated for better healthcare. In 2020, she became part of the Patients Rising staff as a coordinator of the Patients Rising Concierge program.