Skinner I. Navigating food deserts: examining effects and remedies. HPHR. 2023;77. https://doi.org/10.54111/0001/YYY7
Obesity is described as an excessive increase in body fat that poses a risk to health problems such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and stroke. The National Institutes of Health notes that 2 in 5 adults in the United States have obesity, including severe obesity.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that impacts how the body turns food into energy. Type 1 diabetes is believed to be an autoimmune reaction where the body is unable to produce insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas that regulates glucose in the blood. Type 2 diabetes where an individual is unable to produce or use insulin effectively, and is unable to regulate blood sugar at normal levels. The number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has doubled within the last twenty years, due to poorer diets and lack of physical activity.
Lastly, heart diseases include multiple types of heart conditions but the most common heart condition is coronary artery disease (CAD). When there is a build-up of plaque on the wall of the arteries where blood is being supplied to the heart. The plaque is made up of cholesterol deposits, narrowing the arteries, this process is called atherosclerosis. Poor diet and lifestyle have been linked to increased risk of heart disease such as CAD.
All of these diseases have been associated with poor lifestyles, many of which stem from individuals living in environments that lack healthy food choices, food deserts. Multiple solutions to food deserts include community gardens, nutrition education, and business Incentives for establishing grocery stores carrying healthy food options in food desert areas.
A community garden allows a piece of land to be cultivated and farmed by a community of individuals. This promotes better access to healthy fruit and vegetables in a community that may be scarce of these commodities, thus improving the diets of many persons in the United States and lessening the risk of diet-related diseases. Also allowing opportunities for community members to become more involved and engage in more social activities ensures the social well-being of the individuals is taken care of–the social well-being of an individual can directly impact mental, physical, and emotional health. Lastly, it teaches the community what goes into healthy eating and a healthy diet, which can have a positive impact on healthy food habits in the future, especially for children.
Nutrition education should be taught in schools from elementary up to high school, and in community centers or other social settings. Nutrition education emphasizes the importance of healthy eating habits and empowers individuals with the skills and knowledge to make health-conscious food and beverage choices. Nutrition education gives children and adults the experience to create solid attitudes and knowledge of healthy food and beverages, creating a lasting impact on how individuals respond to food and beverages in the future.
Business Incentives can be created in order to encourage food options that are less profitable and may take time to be sustainable due to necessary change in the community to seek healthy choices. Unfortunately, food that is quick, easy and tastes good is not as good as food that is whole, takes preparation and does not have the sugar and processing that is created by the food industry that is not healthy. To create healthy options, you need to have a supply of healthy options, but the reality is the demand for these healthy options will take time to build. Business incentives can create the financial “runway” to ensure these businesses can be profitable while changes are created to make the community more educated on making healthier choices and creating a demand for healthier options.
Food deserts are a serious public health issue that impacts all aspects of an individual’s life. With the aid of community gardens, nutrition education, and business incentives the impact of Food deserts in the United States will significantly decrease, and decrease the percentage of those suffering from diet-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.