shelves with assorted bright snack packages in machine

What is a Food Desert?

Food is the foundation for health. My previous career was in culinary and my current area of study is Public Health. The quality and availability of food is at the intersection of both these disciplines.

“Food Desert” is a term that is thrown around often and has especially been brought to light in the current pandemic. Unfortunately, this term is often misunderstood which leads to a lack of understanding of why a food desert is such an issue upon its occurrence.

Food Desert is a term that is discordant within itself. The inclusion of the word desert invokes an idea of an environment in which resources are scarce due to location. In the case of a food desert while that can be the case, more often this scarcity is caused by a lack of inaccessibility. 

Many perceive the concept of food desserts as an area where people cannot access food. In truth, food deserts are defined by a lack of access to healthful and affordable food. Many food deserts appear in cities, in which factors, such as transport and gentrification, contribute or create the problem. If a person is not readily able to access fresh, healthful food, they are considered to be living in a food desert.

Persons living in food deserts, often can access low quality, low nutrient dense food, such as fast food, or limited food distributors for staples. While everything is fine in moderation, consistent and limited access to only these food purveyors leads to chronic malnutrition, and diet related conditions such as: Obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and a list so numerous  it could take up the rest of the page.These factors cost billions of dollars every year, and this problem is not just limited to the USA. This will be the beginning of a series of topics surrounding food desserts and food access.

I’ll be writing more in the weeks to come about how we deal with and solve food deserts


  1. […] Whole Foods to continues pull out of inner-city locations. The latest was a opened to great fanfare just a few years ago in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. A nuanced dive into how lots of different factors lead to poor nutrition, esp. in urban areas. One additional point would be the replacement of supermarkets with dollar stores. What is a Food Desert? […]

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