I found this image created by the American heart Association that effectively encapsulates some of the most important aspects of food deserts in the United States. Using graphics and an organized layout, it emphasizes the impact of these food deserts on southern states in rural areas of the US. North Carolina was one of three states that the AHA identified as having a high number of people living in food deserts. In fact, 1.5 million people in North Carolina live in 349 Federally recognized food deserts. That’s like 15% of the population! The graphic also includes some steps law makers are taking in the subsequent states, but legislation can take years to enact and unhealthy habits are already formed.
According to a cartographical display of food deserts [left], the concentration of areas where there is no supermarket or store within a mile are almost exclusively distributed among Southern states. Another map [right] shows the concentration of obese Americans in the United States. The areas high in food deserts correlate almost exactly with those high in obese populations. This reveals a clear social justice issue. The majority of people who are overweight to the point of putting their health in grave danger are the same people that must go far out of their way to access foods that many of us take for granted. This isn’t rocket science.
I’ve included a third map which displays the concentration of poverty in the United States. Once again, the map shows a very similar result, pointing to Southeastern states in particular as having the most impoverished citizens. This begs the question, causation or correlation? Did these people become so morbidly obese because they were of a low-income status and didn’t have access to fresh foods? Or were the formation of the food deserts a result of traditionally overweight and poor neighborhood? Either way, this is an issue that must be addressed by the food industry, lawmakers, or both.