One in Four Baltimoreans Lives in a Food Desert

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Food access map of Baltimore, with food deserts indicated in red. Map via mdfoodsystemmap.org
Food access map of Baltimore, with food deserts indicated in red. Map via mdfoodsystemmap.org

According to the USDA, a food desert is a place where residents don’t have access to fresh, healthy foods. Food deserts lack farmer’s markets and good grocery stores; instead, they have fast food, poorly stocked corner stores, and few options.

And despite Baltimore’s growing number of community gardens and farmer’s markets, a quarter of the city’s population still live in neighborhoods that qualify as food deserts, according to recent research from Johns Hopkins’s Center for a Livable Future. Depressingly–but unsurprisingly–Baltimore’s black residents are disproportionately affected; The study found that 34 percent of the city’s African Americans live in food deserts, compared to only 8 percent of white residents.

(The study defined food deserts more specifically than the USDA: a food desert is an area where residents must travel more than a quarter mile to reach a supermarket; the median household income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level; over 30 percent of households lack access to a vehicle; and with a low supply of healthy food.)

So what is to be done? The report’s authors have a few suggestions, including expanding and retaining existing grocery stores; improving food offerings in non-traditional stores, like corner stores; and improving transportation access. For more details, and to see a map of the city’s food deserts, check out the full report here.



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