Obesity

NYT Dives Back Into the Food Desert Swamp

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must…find…kale

Last week, I noted a contradiction in The New York Times' coverage of the low-income, low-grocery store neighborhoods known as food deserts. The print edition covered two new studies suggesting that access to fresh fruits and vegetables was not the problem policymakers had made it out to be, while a blog on website suggested the the problem of access to fresh fruits and vegetables could be solved (at least in part) by authorizing food carts to sell produce in low-income neighborhoods. 

Today, that late-to-the-party blogger, David Bornstein, issues a semi-mea culpa.

When I wrote my column last week, I had not seen this new research. Since then, I read the studies, as well as a number of others, and spoke to more food experts. I'm still convinced that convenient access to fresh food remains a significant barrier for many low-income people around the country, but I have been persuaded that the standard way "food deserts" have been defined may overemphasize—and in some cases mischaracterize—the problem of access.

What follows in a thoughtful take on what is really going on—considering "food prices, preparation time and knowledge, marketing, general levels of education, transportation, cultural practices and taste" as possible factors in the vegetal divide between rich and poor.

But while Gina Kolata's print story on new academic literature about food deserts was excellent, it was hardly breaking news. Another study with similar findings have been making the rounds since last year, and even if you don't indulge in the dreck truth published here at Reason, you might have seen it mentioned in papers like The Washington Post.

By the end of the column, Bornstein has bargained himself down to quantifying the food desert problem as a pretty minor issue indeed, working his way down to an estimate of about 2.5 million low-income households located more than half a mile from a grocery store who lack access to a car. We might want to think about policy solutions to help these folks, but they do not explain why Americans are Twinkie-eating lard butts.

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  1. Hey Ex Nihilo, the article pic is from that awesome movie you’ve never seen.

    Clearly this is a sign from the gods.

    1. Verily, I can see now that I am going to have to watch the “awesome movie.”

  2. What would we ever do without studies? I’m not sure I could by a package of showlaces without some Ivy League douchebag’s research showing me I needed them and could find them at the Walgreen’s down the street.

    1. oops…shoelaces.

      Help me, Harvard, you’re my only hope!

    2. it doesnt take a study to see all the suburban fatties too

    3. But while Gina Kolata’s print story on new academic literature about food deserts was excellent

      Yes, she likes Gina Kolata,

      and getting caught in the rain, la la la la,

      and she has half a brain….come with me and ESCAPE!

  3. *sigh* You see what happens? The reason writers are becoming aware. Every comment we make just feeds their databases. Pretty soon they will know everything we know, feel everything we feel. In truth, there will no longer be a need for commentators as they build new worlds all on their own.

    1. Please. They only know what the squirrels tell them.

  4. estimate of about 2.5 million low-income households without access to a car located more than half a mile from a grocery store

    And why they parked the car there, I’ll never know.

    1. You know how hard it is to find a parking spot in a big city?

      1. Not hard. Part of big city street smarts is figuring out where you can get away with leaving your car without paying, or getting towed.

  5. estimate of about 2.5 million low-income households without access to a car located more than half a mile from a grocery store

    Buses? Taxis? Shoe leather? Friends/relatives with cars?

    1. It doesn’t work that way. Actually, it once did in my case, but I guess I’m an un-special snowflake.

    2. Funny that at the exact same time we’re told the poors are fatties, so Let’s Move. Shit, I could interpretive dance a half a mile. I could jete it, if I could jete. I could swim it (and actually have). Any one of the Ministry-approved silly walks would also work. But nope, putting in effort to feed oneself is now unacceptable and cause for concern.

      1. I had the same thought. Funny that our masters consider complimentary situations as mutually exclusive.

        1. The only approved walking seems to be of the SlutWalk variety. We really must keep up with these things.

          1. There’s good thigh toning in 4-inch heals. Good for the glutes too, I imagine.

            1. This is true and I should not be surprised you know it from experience too. Those pictures of you in the lucite stripper heels are… memorable.

              1. I do it all for science.

      2. Consider that they might live in neighborhoods where walking half a mile with bags of fresh food is…shall we say…unwise.

        1. The tony sections of Wisconsin Ave in NW DC could be considered a food desert. Around the cathedral, there is only one supermarket and very little in terms of retail options up to and beyond Fannie Mae and Sidwell Friends, where the ‘lil Zeros go to school.

          I would bet good money that there are significant stretches of Wisc. Ave and Chevy Chase, MD that meet their criteria.

          1. Are those “low-income neighborhoods”?

            1. No, and that’s my point. There are probably many neighborhoods that qualify for the description that aren’t low income. I get your point about safety, but that can be a red herring in some cases.

        2. “Give me your money”.

          “I’m on food stamps.”

          “You know damn well we’ll take those, too.”

        3. That is a problem for the police, not economic central planners.

      3. I swam a half mile before. Not all at once, though.

  6. NYT Dives Back Into the Food Desert Swamp

    Yeah. Without a parachute and dressed to kill.

  7. Translation: Despite evidence suggesting that the food desert theory, one which I have devoted my life to, is full of shit, I’m going to do my damndest to make sure that we get government to do something about it anyways.

    Oh, and fuck you squirrels.

  8. …they do not explain why Americans are Twinkie-eating lard butts.

    Because you got to enjoy the little things.

  9. Europeans must be very confused. Many walk much more than .5 miles to the grocery every day. Because they dont buy but 1-2 days worth of food at a time.

    Why is .5 the standard anyway? Mine is slightly further than that (0.8 miles walking distance according to google maps) and if I didnt have a car, I could walk there.

    1. I’ve been known to walk over a mile for a beer. But I refuse to walk 1/2 a mile for vegetables.

    2. Seriously, anybody can walk half a mile.

    3. I am a little more than a half mile (about 1 klick if I insist on my Canadian Identity).

      I often walk to get my groceries just cause I like the walk.

  10. “they do not explain why Americans are Twinkie-eating lard butts.”

    Americans are Twinkie-eating lard butts because they have good taste.

  11. I have 5 grocery stores within a 1-mile radius of my house, and zero within a half-mile radius. Am I in a food desert?

    I still manage to get my lard-ass to the grocery store on foot.

  12. Because Twinkies are delicious?

    Anyway, this is a good chunk of the problem, I think (along with the boob tube and other sedentary “activities”):

    preparation time and knowledge

    I have access to decent equipment and accessories and I don’t prepare healthy, natural meals every day. And yes, I’m kind of a lard-ass. And I’m not asking Uncle Sam to do a damn thing about it.

  13. “working his way down to an estimate of about 2.5 million low-income households located more than half a mile from a grocery store who lack access to a car. We might want to think about policy solutions to help these folks…”

    Uh, a bus? Couple of folks get together and hire a cab? Maybe a relative has a car?
    Not sure “we” should do anything here.

  14. I never thought about it liek that before. Wow.

    http://www.Gotta-Be-Anon.tk

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