Sunday, July 17, 2011

Food Deserts and the Farm Bill

Did you know that despite our months of solid rain, Del Norte County is considered a desert by the USDA? We are! According to USDA definitions, almost all of Del Norte County qualifies as a food desert. The USDA working group defines food deserts as "low-income census tracts where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store."

Food deserts often have lots of food -- just not the healthy kind!

Food deserts are a hot topic in the food world, with First Lady Michele Obama taking them on as part of her focus on healthy foods and obesity. USA Today recently featured an article about some projects trying to bring water to some of the deserts around the country. At this year's Food Justice conference in Oakland, CA, there are many sessions dealing with both rural and urban food deserts in California and around the nation.

A small provision in the 2008 Farm Bill directed the USDA to study the "food desert" phenomenon. The Food Desert Locator pictured above is one of the outcomes of the research. To view Del Norte's food deserts or to check out food deserts across the country, check out the Locator. You can zoom in on northern California to see our region up close.

So what's next? Will the 2012 Farm Bill follow up on the research mandated in 2008? Will it include funding and policy priorities that will help alleviate food deserts? Some programs with the potential to mediate local droughts -- such as the Farmers Market Promotion Program grants, the Community Food Project grants, and the Financing for Local Food Enterprises program -- will end without specific reauthorization in the 2012 Farm Bill.

No comments: