Let’s say you wake up Saturday morning, and you live across the street from Tennyson High School, your hungry with no means of transportation and all you want to eat is some fresh fruit and a salad. Sounds trivial, you would think, but this means for this person he or she would have to walk a mile or more to get to a grocery store. More times than not the individual will choose to walk to the corner store a choice that provides a much less healthy option to eat. This person lives in a food desert, and that’s the reality for Tyrone Hood who lives on Shaffer street in Hayward, Ca who said if he didn’t have a car he would have to walk about two miles to get to the grocery store. “Yeah, I would have to walk up Tennyson to get to Food Max.”
Food deserts aren’t defined by metrics but by a group of social, economic factors. One is how many people are served by a particular grocery store for the surrounding neighborhood. Another is access to affordable fresh produce. Fifty liquor stores compared to one grocery stores in the neighborhood. If there’s adequate public transportation to the grocery store.
The daily challenges of living in a food desert combined with the social-economic problems that the majority of these food deserts are located in are necessary for the city to take into account to find solutions to ensure fairness and reciprocity.
Sofia Sanchez a Chabot College graduate and current student at the University of California saw a need in her community. When she realized that her fellow students aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, she notices her friend constantly asking her for her snacks, and she realized that they never turned her down when she offered her food to her friends. Sofia and her fellow students put together a plan to have a food pantry at Chabot College once a month with their partnership with Alameda County Food Bank. They have been able to keep it going for the past two years. “Although it’s only a band-aid on top of the wound of food deserts I’m hoping we can acquire a space on campus for the students who can’t cook their own can come and get a hot, healthy meal as well as have more room for storage so that we can serve more people in our community.”
Begoña Cirera, MS RDN Nutrition Science & Health Faculty Lead at Chabot College to shed a little insight on the subject and she said “Although south Hayward may not qualify as a food desert in the strict definition of the USDA, I strongly believe that this particular community suffers from a lack of access to healthy, affordable fresh food, and too many families and individuals live on increasingly low incomes. The health consequences of such combinations can be devastating for all generations involved, from the pregnant mother to the children, to the grandparents. It is very well documented that a lack of daily fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains in one’s diet can increase the risk for preventable, but chronic diseases such as Type II Diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, to name a few. Let’s put it another way, we could not have too many grocery stores offering fresh, affordable produce, but we have too many convenience stores, 7/11’s, liquor stores, and fast-food restaurants that are creating more problems than solutions to our communities, present, and future generations.”
Food deserts are an important issue our city needs to pay attention to and find solutions for, right now the city is in the research phase to understand what exactly are the needs of the people and when their assessments are complete the city will move forward with plans to remedy the problem.