Mapping the Midwest’s Food Deserts

Visit any city in our region, and you’ll hear a common complaint: the lack of easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s known as a food desert.

Photo by Eric Wellman.

Now, a pair of Michigan State University professors are charting Michigan’s food deserts. You can check out their interactive map. The map makes it clear just how difficult it can be to get your hands on fresh produce in some parts of Lansing, especially if you don’t have a car.

Click on “pedestrian produce” and your computer screen is dotted with small circles. Compare that to what’s accessible by car, especially things like soft drinks. Fresh produce seems much more available in the suburbs, where the percentage of white residents is higher than in the downtown area.

Our Changing Gears partners at ideastream reported on Cleveland’s food deserts last year. Some experts argue that food deserts are at least partly to blame for what many people, including the former Surgeon General, are calling America’s Obesity Crisis. According to their argument, people who do not have access to healthy foods can’t be faulted for not eating them. How far would you go to get your daily dose of fresh fruits and vegetables?

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