“Food deserts” are areas where it’s hard to find places to purchase or acquire affordable, healthy food. Surprisingly, this is a big problem in the Washington metro area. According to the Food Desert Locator, the northeast and southeast sections of the District of Columbia have many such areas. Food deserts are also prevalent in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland.
Many people in and around the District do not have access to reasonably-priced, healthy food. There are no grocery stores in their areas that provide a selection of fresh produce. Also, farmers’ markets do not operate in these areas on the weekends. People who live in these food deserts either have to walk long distances, or drive to purchase nutritious, affordable food. Most of the time they make do with what is in the area, usually unhealthy options. Unfortunately, often the local options are corner stores and fast food outlets that do not offer fruits and vegetables or, if they do, they are not affordable.
What can be done about this? Unless or until farmers’ markets and supermarkets move into these areas the only option is to distribute fresh produce through a local food bank, such as the Capital Area Food Bank, through its 700 partner agencies located throughout the Washington metro area.
A healthy meal is an important part of a healthy life. Access to reasonably-priced fruits and vegetables can mean the difference between chronic health problems or a disease free life. The situation permitting food deserts to exist needs to change.