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.