You may have heard of a food desert, but not know what exactly what one is or where one is. It may be closer than you think in North Carolina. The USDA defines a food desert as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods.” They also say at least 500 people and/or at least 33% of the population has to live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. (For rural areas, the distance is more than 10 miles.)
Many areas in North Carolina do not have easy access to healthy fruits and vegetables. The food that is accessible comes from fast food places and quickie-marts that don’t offer produce. The USDA recently made a map of the United States showing regions where there is not a grocery store. We were surprised at how many of these areas fall in our local communities.
Food Deserts in North Carolina
There are definitely food deserts in North Carolina. West Charlotte, Southeast Raleigh, Northeast Greensboro — these areas have all qualified as food deserts in recent years because of their lack of access to fresh food. Community gardens, co-op grocery stores and mobile markets are a few of the ways residents around these areas are trying to help.
According to Ruth Petersen of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, a number of state-sponsored programs have also been implemented in 2018 to help improve access for food deserts in North Carolina. Many are using community-transformation grants provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These programs are increasing the number of mobile farmers’ markets and farm stands, encouraging participation in community-supported agriculture and enhancing farmers’ market access.
Working Together to Help
For 4 years now, The Produce Box has teamed up with the YMCA’s Camp High Hopes to bring fresh produce to underprivileged children in the Southeast Raleigh food desert area. This year (right now in fact!) we’re bringing Boxes full of fresh, local fruits & veggies to 750 families every other week. That’s 3,000 boxes or about $80,000 dollars worth of food donated to Camp High Hopes! That’s also food going to families who really need it that will make a positive impact on their lives.
Food deserts aren’t going away and it’s going to take a lot of work to make sure healthy food is accessible to all. We’re working together to make an impact in our community.