Increasing healthy food access in “food deserts”

A “food desert” is an area where access to healthy and affordable food options is limited or in some cases, completely non-existent. Currently in the United States there are about 23.5 million people living in a food desert (Gali, Clift. 2012). The overwhelming majority of those 23.5 million people live in black or racially mixed communities where small corner bodegas have replaced actual grocery stores even though they rarely sell and fresh fruit or vegetables (Kwate. 2008). As a result, many people living in these food deserts have a disproportionate rate of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease when compared to those living in predominantly white, middle to upper class neighborhoods where the access to fresh food is four times greater (Go, et al. 2013) . My aim is to design an app that will address and hopefully increase the access to healthy food options in lower income areas that have become food deserts.

The first and most obvious solution to correcting the food desert ordeal is to simply inform those living in a food desert on where they can go to find fresh and healthy food options. The app would have a locator that would scan the users location and show them where the closest fresh food markets are, as well as giving them directions to said markets either by car or by public transportation. The app would also show any sales or coupons for healthy food options available at that store, as well as adding items to their in app grocery list that would allow them to pre-plan their shopping and know the total cost of their items (including tax) before they even get to the store. The only problem with this is that for people living in a food desert the closest grocery store might be twenty miles away and not practical to get to.

This is where the app can really help people living in food deserts in a number of other ways. The app would also include real time instructions for building and maintaining a personal or community garden. It would walk the user through the process step by step, starting with the actual construction of a small plot, all the way to harvesting and preparing their crops for consumption. It would monitor weather conditions in the area through a weather service and let the user know when to plant, when to water, and when to harvest. It would select the best crops to plant in the users geographic location and allow them to order seeds and supplies online for the cheapest prices available, as well as ask for advice from other community gardeners.

If the user was interested in starting a community garden, the app would help them connect to other app users in their area who are also interested. This way they could coordinate their efforts through an in app forum that would be specific to their garden. The app would also offer advice on selecting a site for the garden and as well as getting through the red tape of starting a community garden on publicly or privately owned land. Another added benefit would be that interested community groups could offer to sponsor a garden in their area through the app. Schools, churches, charities, private businesses, or public works departments would all be possible sponsors. The app would also accept donations of gardening supplies, so that they could be distributed to those starting a garden through the app for free.

It is my hope that this app would help grow access to healthy food in low access areas, thus alleviating many of the health problems that arise from living in a food desert.

Works cited:

Galli, A. M. and Clift, B. C. 2012. Food Justice. The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalization.

Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, Bravata DM, Dai S, Ford ES, Fox CS, Franco S, Fullerton HJ, Gillespie C, Hailpern SM, Heit JA, Howard VJ, Huffman MD, Kissela BM, Kittner SJ, Lackland DT, Lichtman JH, Lisabeth LD, Magid D, Marcus GM, Marelli A, Matchar DB, McGuire DK, Mohler ER, Moy CS, Mussoli-no ME, Nichol G, Paynter NP, Schreiner PJ, Sorlie PD, Stein J, Turan TN, Virani SS, Wong ND, Woo D, Turner MB; on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013; 127:e6-e245.

Kwate, N.A. (2008). Fried chicken and fresh apples: Racial segregation as a fundamental cause of fast food density in black neighborhoods. Health and Place. Volume 14, Issue 1. March 2008, Pages 32–44

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