California’s Food Deserts need Fresh Produce, Not Designer Organics
We hear so much about how organic food is the best option, and for some it is the only option they would ever go with when choosing food, because organic food is much healthier. Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods had food elites pushing for Amazon to change the nation’s food system. However, the vast majority of people don’t get a choice of where their food comes from and how it is produced.
The affluent people in the Bay Area and chefs such as Alice Waters have the food situation all wrong. The goal shouldn’t be to make sure everyone has the luxury to buy designer lettuce grown on 14 different local organic farms, which is the case with Waters’ five-star Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse.
The goal should be to make sure fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available to those who need it most. People like the ones living in urban centers and rural outposts don’t have easy access to grocery stores and affordable produce; these are the people most in need of fresh and affordable produce. Many of them don’t own cars to easily travel to grocery stores and they often have few options for food, other than fast food and junk snacks sold at corner stores.
What’s even sadder is that contrary to popular belief, “organic” foods are not healthier. A comprehensive study in 2012 by Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy shows that organic foods are “not nutritionally superior to conventional alternatives,” in addition to costing a third more.
According to the Food Empowerment Project, the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes has risen across demographic lines in recent years; however, the greatest increases have occurred among people of color. The highest rates of escalation have been identified in Native American youth, African-Americans and Latinos of all age groups, with these groups suffering disproportionately higher rates of type 2 diabetes compared to whites.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that in California alone, more than one million people live in these food deserts. Not surprisingly, the inhabitants of food deserts are predominantly low-income and ethnic minorities. This demographic suffers the most from poor diets resulting in obesity and the adverse health issues associated with it and are more likely to live in food deserts.
According to a 2015 article by Pacific Standard, “children in the low-income neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, Southeast L.A., South L.A., and near the Port of Los Angeles live with a 30 percent obesity rate.” The article went on to state,
Compare that with the more affluent and majority-white areas of Bel-Air/Beverly Crest and Brentwood/Pacific Palisades, where less than 12 percent of children suffer from obesity. In South Los Angeles and other low-income areas, McDonald’s and Burger King are on every corner, and grocery options are scarce.
A major first step toward improving the health of people living in food deserts would be for the food elites and environmental community to stop promoting fear and shaming people for not eating organic fruits and vegetables, which should be noted, are more expensive than conventionally grown produce.