Riot-torn cities face another problem: more 'food deserts'

Wednesday, September 2, 2020
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

SNAP sign in store windowThere is yet another area of concern for big cities experiencing riots, arson, and looting.

At issue are so-called “food deserts,” which are urban areas where it is difficult to locate and buy affordable food.

With a lot of the unrest happening in big cities, columnist Merrill Matthews of the Institute for Policy Innovation is asking if food deserts will become food wastelands.

"If you burned out a number of these stores, Walmart and other places, are those stores going to come back and open up again if they're going to be subject to riots and looting?” he asks. “You may exacerbate the whole food desert problem because people in low-income areas may not be able to find any place to go to buy fresh food."

The United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service has identified approximately 6,500 food desert tracts in the United States. Those are defined by urban areas where a portion of the population lives more than one mile from the nearest grocery store. In more rural areas, USDA looks at areas more than 20 miles away.  

A single mile may not seem like an insurmountable obstacle if you have a car but Matthews says it can be a challenge for low-income and inner-city families.

"Elected officials and low-income advocates have been encouraging more grocery stores to locate in the food deserts to provide residents with at least one healthy alternative," says Matthews. "Unfortunately, the riots we are seeing in many cities are likely to bring those efforts to a halt—for years."

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