Food desserts refer to urban areas where the residents find it cumbersome to buy fresh and affordable food. They are areas where one cannot basically obtain healthy food. They are becoming a prevalent issue in cities with high impoverished populations. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Memphis provides a home to many areas that are highlighted as food desserts. These include Binghampton, South Memphis, and North Memphis. The region is classified as one of the poorest cities in the country with an estimated poverty rate of 28% with the number getting higher towards South Memphis. It is also one of the most obese cities in the entire nation with an estimated obesity rate of over 30%. A combination of poverty and obesity is likely to result in high risks of health and diseases which have become inherent in the community.
According to Food hub, an estimated 12.4% of Memphis population have been diagnosed with heart diseases, diabetes, and even stroke. Further research shows the existence of strong links between poverty, obesity and limited food access which constitute poor health. However, all these cycles of poor health, poverty and food inequality among others can be halted with community efforts. The paper, therefore, analyses the food situation in Memphis, its effects and the systems put in place by the community to control food dessert in the region.
Are there a higher percentage of the residents at Memphis suffering from lack of access to healthy and nutritious foods? Have they been mostly feeding on unhealthy foods such as food deserts? Memphis is a city in the United States, and so far it has been ranked one of the standard places lacking access to healthy foods especially in the low-income areas. Statistics show that 26% of the population at Memphis claim that they are not able to access healthy foods because of their high costs and the only option they are left with is to feed on unhealthy foods sold cheaply at most stores such as junk foods (Fidler 8). There is a need for the Memphis residents to observe healthy food habits to evade complications. This research is directed at looking at the causes of this problem and its possible solutions that have been so far implemented by the city.
Research has proven that in 2010, about 83% of residents at Memphis had to decide whether to purchase food or rather pay utilities while 32% argued that they had to decide whether to buy food or pay rent (Fidler 9). It, therefore, means that many people lack the free access to not only healthy but nutritious food in Memphis. Hence, lack of accessibility of healthy and nutritious foods is a significant problem facing Memphis as it profoundly affects the health of its residents who mostly survive or instead prefer to feed on food deserts which are highly available at affordable prices.
Memphis has also been known to be ranked as the most food insecure city for children in America. A reason that mostly explains the fact that a high rate of unemployment characterizes the city and this ends up causing poor nutrition as well as food hardships. Most residents at Memphis struggle too much to purchase healthy foods because their income is quite low and hence they have other pending bills that they prefer to solve first. Healthy nutrition is a factor known to contribute profoundly to the healthy development of children, and hence it should be of most significant concern so that proper growth and development of children is achieved. For instance, in 2010, Memphis was ranked as a city which is characterized with food hardships, and hence this caused a chance for it to improve and secure its residents' health status (Fong, 5). Hence, food insecurity and hunger serve as a major risk and threat to the good development and growth of children's brains.
A more prominent number of the Memphis populations have been left with no option whatsoever but to feed on food deserts which are cheaply and locally available at most stores, gas stations or fast food chains. These stores are all convenient, and since their food is cheap, many people just prefer to feed on their menu which is mainly composed of deserts such as cheeseburgers and fries. Food deserts are majorly categorized as the foods which have no access to fresh components of foods. Hence, a population that relies on them may have health implications which may be dangerous to their lives. The situation of the concentration of food deserts and other unhealthy foods in Memphis is explicitly worse because of some reasons. Its poverty rate is at 28% of the entire nation, and its obesity rate is at 30% when compared to other cities in the country (Fong, 7).
Therefore, Memphis' poverty and obesity rate have been the result of unhealthy eating, and it is what majorly is affecting the country's health status at large. For instance, about 12.4% of residents in Memphis have been diagnosed with heart diseases and diabetes which pose a critical risk to them. These rates are continuing to increase because of the lack of healthy foods and poverty. Also, so many health problems are now facing the people of Memphis as a result of their unhealthy eating (Food Research and Action Center 6). For instance, consumption of food deserts leads to high level of cholesterol and sugar in the body which results in diseases such as heart attack, diabetes, stroke and even cancer. These diseases are quite dangerous to the human body as they disrupt its significant activities which in the end may cause death. Well, this is not what people think of as they consume unhealthy foods.
Most of the people just result in the feeding of desserts because these foods are more accessible and at a cheaper cost. Therefore, most people end up consuming them with the thought of saving time and money, but in the real sense, this is not the case as later in their life they are likely to spend more time and money while at the hospital (Food Research and Action Center 8). Hence, it is more advisable for the residents of Memphis only to consume healthy foods as they are the only safest options for their health. Also, the city needs to come up with solutions which are going to increase the availability of these foods especially to the underserved areas and ensure their prices are affordable in a way that can attract more customers.
Most of the urban neighborhoods of Memphis do not have access to traditional grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable food products (Backer). However, despite the shortage in grocery stores, fast food restaurants are on the peak with plenty convenience stores. The rise and prevalence of food dessert can be attributed to the closure of larger food corporations i.e. Kroger which closed its stores in low-income neighborhoods such as Lamar Avenue and South Third Street in Memphis (Ramirez). Moreover, these large corporations go to wealthier neighborhoods where they can fetch a lot of money i.e. they are more interested in making big profits than serving their communities. According to Ramirez, food desserts do not necessarily restrict to a shortage of quality food. Transportation is also a vital issue in this area since some families are not able to travel to neighboring regions with more grocery stores. They are therefore trapped in an area with no food and have no car or any other easy means of transportation.
The effects of food desserts as experienced by Memphis citizens include poverty which results in increased crime rates. The people also live in horrible places which do not provide a conducive human habitat. Further studies show that this community experiences high rates of obesity, renal failure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and a myriad of diet-related health problems (Backer). These problems go overboard to affect children's performance and their overall self-esteem. A research by Prof Yong Yang from the University of Memphis found out that the Shelby County School students in Memphis are highly affected by overweight and obesity related issues with 16 percent being overweight and 22.6 percent being obese.
Due to the growing problem of lack of proper nutrition and health foods, the city has decided to come up with several solutions that would help the people's health in general. For instance, the town is now improving the access of fresh foods which are healthy and affordable for people to feed on. This process is conducted through a campaign that is running through the city, and it is run by the charity so that better results can be achieved (Vaughn 9). The program majorly is directed at helping the underserved places in Memphis because they are the most significant victims of not having the access to healthy and nutritious foods for their bodies. The program addresses the sparse population and provides them with pamphlets which have detailed information on first what healthy and nutritious food entails. This kind of information offers education based on what healthy and nutritious food involves. Next is to give better but simple examples such as taking only fresh produce from the farm because it represents one of the healthiest categories.
Additionally, farmers and other local institutions of Memphis city have collaborated to bring an end to unhealthy eating. Some of the efforts carried forth are to provide or somewhat improve the availability of fresh foods and fruits as well as at affordable prices which are favorable to many people. This is achieved through the introduction of farmers markets. According to Abrams & Balkus et al, farmers markets are events that enable farmers and other agricultural goods vendors to gather and sell their produce to consumers directly. These markets are of importance to consumers because they enable them to buy fresh and healthy food products at low prices. The producers are also able to make their profits since links are eliminated in the supply chain.
The Cooper-Young Farmers Market and the Downtown Farmers Market have come together to initiate a program through which they can ensure that many residents can access fresh foods and fruits via the vendors. For example, they have come up with a strategy to promote the accessibility of these foods by offering a chance for a person who purchases fresh food of up to $10 to have an extra $10 green token which will only allow them to buy the fresh foods (Vaughn 11). This strategy allows many residents to access fresh foods cheaply primarily because the program offers an extra token after they have made their purchases. The program has therefore been able to improve fresh and nutritious food consumption almost by double, and this is a significant change for the city's residents. The program has also called for willing residents who can donate more funds to it and allow it to accomplish its goals and objectives as stipulated. The South Memphis farmers market will also provide a series of classes that will focus on a myriad of topics that relate to the dietary requirements of residents with heart disease and diabetes, organic eating, cooking with children, shopping on a budget and food preparation for the elderly in the region (Backer).
Another program targeted at the reduction of a food desert is the introduction of mobile produce vendors such as the agricultural produce trucks, food trucks or mobile restaurants. The food trucks would help provide an alternative to the ever-present fast food chains while serving anything from the delicious tamales to the Southern barbeque. On the other hand, mobile produce vendors/trucks provide a vital link between a community and fresh fruits and vegetables. These trucks have the ability to access food desserts and provide them with the quality and fresh fruits and vegetable products that would have been unavailable (Abrams et al).
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