“Food deserts” become a growing problem throughout US

World Today

It’s the capital city of one of the richest countries in the world, yet thousands of people in Washington, D.C. have no easy access to fresh food.

They live in so-called “food deserts” – spots in the middle of large cities where there are no large supermarkets. Residents have no means of buying healthy, fresh food at low prices.

It’s a problem that affects cities across the United States.

CGTN’s Kate Fisher reports from Washington.

It is a nationwide issue – 23.5 million Americans live in “food deserts” according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Healthy Corners initiative allows shops to buy small amounts of produce at wholesale prices, meaning they can afford to stock the items – and people without easy access to big stores can still eat well.

Just one way the DC Food Policy Council is trying to end food deserts. “There is indeed a lot of hunger in the United States, in the nation’s capital. I like to say the capital of the most powerful country in the known universe. That is reprehensible,” DC Hunger Solutions Director Beverley Wheeler said.

There are just three full service grocery stores on the eastern edge of Washington, but in the more affluent northwest part of the city, residents have eight to choose from. But, supermarket chain Safeway says it has no plans to open additional stores in the city.

“The demand for this neighborhood is really what has driven our need to provide bigger refrigeration units for the products that we’re selling. Last year alone, we sold over 200,000 units just in wards 7 and 8. And a 100 percent of our now 74 corner store owners reported an increase in their profits as a result of selling healthy corners items,” DC Central Kitchen’s Erica Teti-Zilinskas said.

The city’s administration said it recognizes the importance of fresh food offerings and is working to improve food access. But that’s little comfort to those who have to travel from far and wide to get their fresh produce.

Making schemes like this one even more vital to the health of the city and the country.