A Food Desert Solution?

The Lempert Report
December 01, 2015

Has Ohio figured out the right solution for food deserts? You might be surprised at the answer.

At the downtown Dayton bus station hub, there’s a farm stand set up right inside, much like we’ve seen in NYC’s Grand Central Station. It opened in September as a partnership between the bus system, the county and Homefull, a homeless Services organization. But this one is not for the executives training their way to their offices from Connecticut, Long Island or New Jersey – it is for the people who ride buses and live in food deserts! This report from Marketplace.org.

It is reported that as many as 18 million people in the U.S. live in a food desert—defined by the USDA as a low-income area with limited access to a grocery store. A lot of efforts at fighting food deserts have focused on getting grocery stores and farm stands out into neighborhoods; some have been successful while others have not which is why the folks in Dayton brought the foods to where the people are right in the middle of town. And to top it off, many of the customers use their food stamp EBT card which translates in to a two for the same price as one via the voucher program.

Millions of dollars have gone into building supermarkets in food deserts since 2011, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs. The question is whether or not they directly impact neighborhood diet and health.  RAND studied two areas in Pittsburg – one that had a supermarket open in 2013 and compared it to another area that did not get the new supermarket. The new store’s impact was distinct: the residents consumed fewer calories from sugar, solid fat and alcohol and ate less added sugar overall. However there was no change in fruit, vegetable or whole grain food consumption.

The Dayton farm stand also plans to offer cooking and nutrition classes, to empower people just how to prepare the produce, which is the key to success.