Food Deserts

Apr 23, 2014 No Comments by

In 2005 after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans there was a lack of planning, emergency relief, and aid from both the local and national levels.  The abandonment in development in this aid area lead to the destruction of many neighborhoods, specifically the Lower Ninth Ward, a historically black neighborhood.  Since then, this part of New Orleans has become the largest food desert in the United States  being a region with no grocery stores.  The United States Department of agriculture defines food deserts as “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.”

Last year, the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Development published a food access plan highlighting the issues and solutions for this area.



Although this geographic area, according to the 2010 US Census, has a population of over 5,500 people, the closest supermarket is more than three miles away.  That means there is a large population of people, 95% black, who, without adequate transportation, income, or time are not able to buy healthy or fresh food.

The importance of the Lower Ninth Ward as a case study is imperative to studying food-related issues in this country because it is indicative of a greater national trend. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, segregation by race and income are in fact associated with limited access to healthy food, and those who do not have this access, tend to have higher levels of obesity and related diseases.

The Lower Ninth Ward is not isolated in its systematic discrimination of people of color through the lack of healthy food.  After the Lower Ninth Ward, the West and Southside of Chicago, Atlanta, and Memphis are the next three largest food deserts, all areas with a majority people of color.  There are obvious health disparities in this country within communities of color, and many of them are linked to access to food.  The government’s complacency with this system, demonstrated by the abandonment of Lower Ninth Ward and many other pockets of low-income, minority neighborhoods effectively demonstrates the institutionalization of racism in this country.  With more corporations and privatization and less social programs comes more areas that are overwhelmed with liquor stores yet have no fresh produce.

Some communities are fighting back and beginning dialogues about health, institutionalized racism, and food justice.  Programs like the Food Action Plan, located in the Lower Ninth Ward, are taking a stance against the marginalization of people of color through such a basic need as healthy food.  Although the government might be able to remain complacent, the people are realizing that they cannot remain passive or their health will be on the line.


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