Food Deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.
Before today, I had never known such a seemingly harsh but honest term existed to describe the serious lack of food access for overwhelming large populations throughout the the globe. A desert is a barren, arid and seemingly endless landscape devoid of any true vegetation or water sources. This metaphor for areas in which food is not accessible for the populations living there speaks to the magnitude and severity of the issue.
My time spent at the Portland Fruit Tree Project has compounded my belief in food as a basic human right. And not just food; real food, food that is nutritious and will sustain a body throughout life. Food is just as essential as water to drink and air to breathe- it is crucial to life, and has many powers beyond just simply that.
I came across this article today on Huffington Post:
This article mainly focuses on the influential role of such nutritional programs as SNAP and WIC in this issue. While these programs do seek to increase food access and equity specifically in food deserts, the article says this:
“Yet, SNAP’s 47 million participants face numerous barriers to eating a nutritious diet, including insufficient benefit amounts and the high cost of healthy foods. Families on SNAP report a desire to eat healthfully but sometimes have to “compromise nutrition and variety in their diets to ensure that they could provide enough food for the least expense.”
Not terribly surprising when considering the expense of food just by strolling into the closest supermarket- that food which contains the highest amounts of fats and sodium and pesticides, often times generic brands or mass produced produce, stand to nearly always be the cheapest option. Fresh and organic items are displayed on their own, proving to be sometimes doubly or triply as expensive as other options.
So, while these programs are crucial on such a broad scale as far as our national food security is concerned, it just further emphasizes the need for local grassroots efforts such as Portland Fruit Tree Project. Clearly, there are limitations. We cannot reach every hungry individual in the city of Portland, and we cannot overcome the existing food desert in the NE portion of the city on our own. By comparison to many other food pantries and organizations, our reach is small. But we are working with a coalition of other organizations that are seeking the very same goal as us. In considering the benefits but also the downfalls of government food programs, it is more vital than ever that other opportunities exist to supplement the nutrition that is continuing to lack in poverty stricken communities.
Perhaps someday, some of these deserts can be transformed into lush rainforests, rich in a diverse array of healthful opportunities and food will no longer be a barrier to leading healthy and productive lives.