How A Viral TikTok Is Sparking Conversation Around Urban Food Deserts And Inequality
July 05, 2022 at 8:08 pm
Food deserts are now back in the national conversation thanks to a viral video.
TikTok user Griffin Green went viral for a video he posted, and later deleted, on the social networking app. In it, he explains that he recently moved to New York City and had trouble finding a grocery store in his new neighborhood. He complained that his Apple map directed him to bodegas instead of grocery stores.
“Where are the Krogers and the Whole Foods at,” Green said in the video. “I’m bout to eat cereal and ramen for dinner, what the f**ck.”
After the video was shared on Twitter, it quickly went viral on social media with many users condemning it for being culturally insensitive and for epitomizing everything that’s wrong with gentrification. However, some users came to the defense of Green, saying he is dealing with culture shock and didn’t know any better, while others called it satire. Yet, most users felt the video was an arrogant attempt to berate and belittle the people that live in these NYC neighborhoods.
While Green’s viral video has irked many, it has also sparked a necessary conversation among online users around the lack of access to healthy foods for urban dwellers—especially for those in lower-income neighborhoods.
As many social media users are calling out, the bodegas that Green appears to be bashing might actually be the only accessible food option for someone in a lower economic area. There are in fact numerous neighborhoods across the United States that are systematically deprived of convenient options for securing affordable and healthy food. These food deserts, as they’ve come to be known, are a serious issue in society and should be spoken about more.
Here’s some information on food deserts, the communities they most impact and strategies for alleviating them.
What is a food desert?
Food deserts are areas where residents have limited access to affordable and nutritious food—especially fresh fruits and vegetables. The main determinants that designate a food desert are access to food, the type and quality of food available, and the household resources of the area’s residents.
There are rural food deserts and urban food deserts, the difference being the population density of residents and their distance from the nearest supermarket. According to USDA data, an area is considered a “low-access” food area if at least 500 people or a third of the population lives more than a half-mile away from the nearest food retailer in urban areas or more than 10 miles away in rural areas.
Which communities are most affected by food deserts?
Limited access to food is a particular concern for urban areas and it also disproportionately affects impoverished areas and minority communities. Studies have found that predominantly white and affluent communities have significantly greater access to supermarkets and nutritious food, while low-income minority neighborhoods tend to have more convenience stores, which mostly sell highly processed foods with little to no fresh produce options.
The socioeconomic and racial inequalities in America are issues directly related to food insecurity in this country.
Studies have also shown that on average, healthier food diets cost about $1.50/day more per person than a less healthy overall diet.
How do food deserts impact these communities?
Food deserts place a heavy financial hardship and health burden on poorer communities. If people choose to seek out the less accessible/less affordable option, their wallets and financial security can suffer.
Many food deserts and minority communities have an overabundance of fast-food chains, gas stations and convenience stores that sell foods high in fat, sugar and salt. A poor diet can lead to a variety of health issues such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, among others.
Medical treatments and emergencies related to these health issues can be astronomical for anyone, but especially for low-income families and individuals.
Ultimately, the financial strain brought about by unhealthy eating and the lack of food accessibility can severely hinder one’s chances of rising above poverty, effectively continuing the cycle.
What are some strategies to alleviate food deserts?
Strategic policymaking and grassroots approaches will be needed in order to combat the negative effects of food deserts in the U.S.
To begin with, cities could support small, corner-type stores so that they can better stock their shelves with fresh produce and healthier options for their community.
City officials can also encourage alternative food retailers, like food co-ops, farmer’s markets and urban gardens to be more readily available in these neighborhoods. In addition, incentivizing supermarkets to open locations in these underserved areas can help increase accessibility, as can, expanding assistance programs and facilitating better city-wide transportation services.
Community members can also make a difference. Neighborhood leaders can take the reins on this issue by talking about food deserts and helping those in their community understand their residual impact.