What is a Food Desert?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) generally defines food deserts as “areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.” A food desert can be in an urban area, where only convenience and liquor stores are within walking distance, or in a rural area, where grocery stores can be many miles apart, accessible only by car and not served by public transportation. While the term “food insecurity” generally describes a household’s economic condition, the term “food deserts” is an issue of a community’s access to good food.

Tammy Hester, a Child Nutrition Coordinator in Lubbock, Tex., describes the problem in this way: “In our outlying areas, a lot of options are gas stations or fast food,” Hester said. “Parents can go to McDonalds and get a $1 value meal, but fresh food at the grocery store is expensive.”

The federal government launched the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) in 2011, to bring grocery stores and other food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities across America. The Initiative offers the expertise and resources of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Treasury Department, and Health and Human Services together to offer a full range of tools to increase access to healthy foods.

For more information on food deserts, see:


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