Food deserts may not jump to your mind when you think about problems facing society at large but they affect more than 25 million Americans on a daily basis.
In simple terms, a food desert is a community that lacks direct and reliable access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Like most people, you might assume that food deserts affect urban neighborhoods or isolated rural communities the most. And though that may be true, food deserts are much more common and are growing thanks in large part to the inefficiencies of our modern commercial food system where foods are not being grown locally but rather shipped from the far reaches of the globe. For many Americans, three meals a day are being purchased directly from convenience stores.
The USDA definition of a food desert
Buffalo, WY is home to the flagship Edible Learning Lab and is not considered a food desert by the federal government. We have two grocery stores in a town of 4500 people. The problem, however, is not one of proximity but rather choice.
Many rural communities like Buffalo, WY are the last to receive deliveries of fresh produce. We are at the end of the line, getting what often feels like the leftovers after stops in Denver and other stops south of us. Often, the produce is stocked on the shelves just days before its expiration date. This leads consumer to preserved, canned, or frozen options.
The Modern Steader definition of a food desert
Modern Steader takes that a bit further, suggesting that areas served by grocery stores that carry little to no organic and non-GMO food products are doing little to lift communities above the status of food deserts. Based on that definition, many urban and rural communities would still be considered as such.
Buffalo is a food desert because the grocery stores don’t carry much organic or non-GMO. Food is food…right? We at Modern Steader couldn’t disagree any stronger. When access to good food is not readily available because the stores carry very little fresh fruits and vegetables then there in effect is little if any choice. That seems like a food desert to us.