GOOD

Beyond the Food Desert Mirage

The link between food deserts and health is far from absolute, so maybe it's time to focus on the bottom line: more affordable food.

Rahm Emanuel has made eradicating "food deserts" a priority of his mayoral reign. He recently met with grocers in Chicago to discuss bringing affordable, nutritious food to under-served, low-income neighborhoods. That food access may come in the form of Walmarts, Walgreens, and Aldis.


Emanuel isn't alone in his mission to bring air-conditioned supermarket abundance to so-called "food deserts"—those vegetable-parched regions that are low on groceries and high on poverty. (The United States Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as places where at least a fifth of the population lives at or below the poverty line, and a third of the population lives more than a mile from a large grocery store). In fact, encouraging the proliferation of grocery store chains is a central part of the national strategy to address America's growing obesity problem: Just look at Michelle Obama's high-profile Let’s Move initiatives.

But maybe the solution isn't more supermarkets. An overemphasis on huge grocery stores can overlook the role of smaller mom-and-pop shops, many of which offer an ample selection of competitive priced goods. And despite some data linking obesity and supermarket proximity, we don't all choose to shop at the closest supermarket. As Adam Drewnowski points out [PDF], shoppers using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) traveled an average of five miles to buy food—even though the closest grocery store was less than two miles away. This suggests that even low-income households don't choose foods based on proximity alone, and is a good indication of why addressing the food desert's twin—the transportation desert—is an equally important initiative.

Furthermore, as The Economist points out in a pithy recent piece, improved access to healthy food alone won't alter our consumption habits:

The unpalatable truth seems to be that some Americans simply do not care to eat a balanced diet, while others, increasingly, cannot afford to. Over the last four years, the price of the healthiest foods has increased at around twice the rate of energy-dense junk food.

\n

Making healthier food more readily available might be part of the solution—whether that's healthier corner stores or mobile grocers. But it also needs to be more affordable. No doubt, Walmart has some bad practices. But, in this case, they could be on to something.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user pantagrapher

Articles
via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less
Business
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics