Food Access and Food Choice: Applications for Food Deserts

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Kyureghian, Gayaneh; Nayga, Rodolfo M., Jr.
article description
Poor food choices have been shown to contribute to the rise of major chronic diseases, including overweight and obesity (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)). Consequently, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, emphasizes the need to shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes nutritious food, such as fruits and vegetables. Despite these efforts only 42 percent, and less than 60 percent of Americans, meet the recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, respectively. In academic and policy circles as well as in the public eye, the local food environment has been associated with food choices and diet-related health consequences. Limited food access is considered especially worrisome for under-served, predominantly low-income areas, which are believed to be disproportionately subject to health and income disparities (Bitler and Haider, 2011). The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, refers to “an area in the United States with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly such an area composed of predominantly lower-income neighborhoods and communities” as food deserts (Sec. 7527. Study and Report on Food Deserts, The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), June 18, 2008). In February 2010, the Obama Administration proposed a $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative (H.R. 3525: Healthy Food Financing Initiative), that would eradicate food deserts by improving food access. Several states have launched policy efforts to increase access to healthy food.