Where you live

Introduction: Although food deserts exist in a variety of environments (including suburban and rural areas), they are particularly prevalent in urban areas. What is confounding about food deserts in cities is that they may be located quite close to neighborhoods with an abundance of stores with a wide range of healthy options. The effects of food deserts are far-reaching. Consider the following questions…Are obesity rates higher in food desert areas? Are unemployment rates higher? If the old adage “you are what you eat” is true, what happens when what your options of what to eat fall well short of body’s nutritional needs? Of even greater importance, what is the effect on children? Cities are becoming greener and urban farms are becoming more and more prolific. But are these healthy quality of life improvements reaching everyone? Is every corner store carrying fresh fruit and organic food? And if they are, are people being educated to make these choices? Until this happens, cities remain environments of inequality. Mini-module 5.1 and this associated activity will get you thinking about some of these questions.


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Timing: Complete this activity in conjunction with mini-module 5.1.


Submission details: Submit your completed document to Canvas by the due date listed online.


Step 1. Read the fact sheet (embedded in this document) on Food Desert Statistics.


Figure 1 Adapted from the Teaching Tolerance fact sheet developed by the Southern Poverty Law Center



Step 2. Respond to 2of the 3 questions listed below. Responses of adequate depth will likely be about 100 words in length. (3 points)


1.       Why might healthy, affordable food be difficult to obtain in certain areas in the U.S.? In which types of areas/communities do you think food deserts are most prevalent: urban, rural or suburban? Provide a brief rationale for your response.
Type response here
2.       How do you think living in a food desert could affect a person/family’s food purchasing behavior and choices?
Type response here
3.       How could living in a food desert relate to food insecurity (consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.)? Conversely, how could it relate to obesity?
Type response here



Step 3. What’s in store?

This portion of the assignment asks you to provide information about three different types of food establishments in your community.


Which of the following best describes the community where you live: (bold your response; if you live in multiple communities during the year, read through the rest of the assignment and just choose one for this activity)

  1. Rural
  2. Urban
  3. Suburban


For the community you selected, fill in chart below to the best of your abilities. You’ll be asked to respond to a series of prompts for a nearby grocery store, convenience or corner store, and fast food restaurant.(3 points)


  Grocery store or supermarket Convenience or corner store Fast food restaurant
Example closest to where you live(enter name of establishment)      
Approximate distance from where you live (in miles)      
Approximately how many of these are within a one-mile radius of your home?      
For the next four statements, indicate your level of agreement on a scale of 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. 
A wide range of healthy options such as fresh fruit, vegetables, low-fat milk products, whole-wheat products, and lean meats are available at this food establishment.      
Any fresh produce (fruits, vegetables) and meats are of reasonably high quality. (Enter NA for not applicable if establishment doesn’t sell these items)      
The cost of healthier options (e.g., fresh fruit and vegetables, low-fat milk, lean meats, etc.) sold at this establishment are affordable to most of the residents of this community. (Enter NA for not applicable if establishment doesn’t sell these items)      
Overall, the cost of most of the food/beverage options sold at this establishment are likely affordable to most of the residents of this community.      


Take a moment to review your summary table then respond to the reflection questions below. (4 points)


1.       Would you characterize your community as a food desert? Justify your choice based on the data in your table, your knowledge of the community not captured in the table, and the characteristics of a food desert described earlier in the handout.
Type response here
2.       Where do you think the closest food desert to your community is? Write your prediction in the space below and describe why you think that particular community will likely be a food desert.
Type response here
3.       Go online to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Access Research Atlas (a food desert mapping tool).Read about this tool here before getting started: https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/about-the-atlas/
a.       Go to the Atlas: https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/go-to-the-atlas/

b.       You will see a map of the United States with food deserts highlighted in green. The USDA’s original food desert measure is defined on the site as a “low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store (at least 33% of the population lives more than one mile from a grocery store, or more than 10 miles for a rural census tract). Provide one observation about the patterns on the national map. Are food deserts concentrated in a particular part of the country? In urban areas? Rural areas? Do any patterns emerge?

Type response here
c.       Enter an address (“find a place” – upper left corner of screen) that can be found within the community you think is a food desert (your response to question 2) into the locator and see if you were correct. If not, see if you can identify one nearby. Click on the area highlighted in green to see additional information about the food desert, including the number and percentage of people with low access; the poverty level and the number and percentage of people without a vehicle. What story do the statistics tell?
Type response here
4.       What is your reaction to your findings regarding food access (availability, cost, quality) in your community and the message it sends to community residents?If you do not live in a community that is a food desert, how might your food purchasing and food choice decisions differ from residents who do?
Type response here



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