People do strange things when they’re stranded in the desert.
They eat bugs. They drink out of puddles. If help doesn’t arrive quickly, they become malnourished and might even die.
You might be surprised to learn that millions of Americans live in just such a strange and threatening place: a food desert.
The USDA defines a food desert as “a low-income census tract where either a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.”
Under these income and food access criteria, about 10 percent of the 65,000 census tracts in the United States meet the definition of a food desert. These food desert tracts contain 13.5 million people with low access to sources of healthful food. The majority of this populationó82 percentólive in urban areas.
Are you feeling faint? Fat? Malnourished? You could be lost in a food desert right now and not even realize it.
To help raise awareness about food deserts, the USDA recently introduced an Internet-based mapping tool that pinpoints the location of food deserts around the country and provides data on population characteristics of census tracts where residents have limited access to affordable and nutritious foods.
The Food Desert Locator is designed to assist efforts to expand the availability of nutritious food in low-income communities that lack ready access to healthy food. Figuring out how to keep people eating healthy will become even more challenging as the world population grows.
Care2′s Kristina Chew writes that according to a report released yesterday by Oxfam International, the price of staples such as corn (maize) will nearly double by the year 2030. By 2050, demand for food will grow by 70 to 90 percent but “climate change, ecological degradation, population growth, rising energy prices, rising demand for meat and dairy products and competition for land for biofuels, industry and urbanization” will lead to declining supplies.
While we now have the ability to feed all of humanity, says Oxfam, one in seven people goes hungry today and the world’s poorest people spend up to 80 percent of their income on food.
Image Credit: Flickr – giofili