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A Look Inside Food Deserts

Food Deserts Explained

Food deserts are areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.

Are There Food Deserts in the United States?

Photo: Woman shopping for applesA review of five high income countries published in the July 2009 issue of Preventing Chronic Disease (PCD) suggests that food deserts do exist in the United States. Estimates of how much of the US population is affected can vary greatly because there is no standard definition of a food desert. According to a report by the US Department of Agriculture, a small percentage of American consumers are limited in their ability to access affordable nutritious food because they live far from a supermarket or large grocery store and do not have easy access to transportation. Full report.

How Can Food Deserts Affect Your Health?

Many scientific studies have suggested that food deserts may negatively affect health outcomes, but more research is needed to determine how access influences the types of foods consumers purchase and eat. Some researchers believe a link exists between access to affordable nutritious foods and the intake of those foods. However, other studies have shown that even after healthier food options are more widely available in food deserts, many consumers continue to make unhealthy choices based on personal preferences.

How to Tell if You Live in a Food Desert

Identifying food deserts is not an exact science, but you can look at an overview of your county's access to healthier food.

If you struggle with finding affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lowfat milk and other healthy foods, the important thing to remember is that you can still take steps to improve your diet. Need help? Learn more on how to consume a healthier diet by accessing:

More Information

For more on food deserts and pricing read PCD. Articles include:

  • Page last reviewed: September 24, 2012
  • Page last updated: September 24, 2012
  • Content source:
    • Content source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), Preventing Chronic Disease
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Division of News and Electronic Media