A 2009 study by the Department of Agriculture found that 2.3 million households do not have access to a car and live more than a mile from a supermarket. Much of the public health debate over rising obesity rates has turned to these “food deserts,” where convenience store fare is more accessible—and more expensive—than healthier options farther away. This map colors each county in America by the percentage of households in food deserts, according to the USDA’s definition. Data is not available for Alaska and Hawaii. (via Slate Labs - Food Deserts: An interactive map)
So the next time someone tells me an “unhealthy diet” is always a “choice” and that everyone should just buy a cornucopia of fresh produce, I’ll just whip this out.
Ladies and gentlemen: it is easy, really easy, when you are young and thin and mobile and inured to affluence, to think that it’s easy to eat well. (It’s especially easy in California, where farmer’s markets dot every town.) I beg you to realize that not everyone has the luxury of choice in food.
Ellyn Satter, something of a rockstar dietitian, made a really excellent riff on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs a while back that illustrates how people satisfy their food needs. “Instrumental food” here refers to food designed to accomplish a specific purpose: bulk up, slim down, have a balanced diet, hit a target number of calories.