food-desert250Picture a dry, barren, parched Saraha desert, no water for sights only sand surrounding you for miles around. You picture an oasis but instead it’s a mirage. This is the image we typically get when we hear the word ‘desert’. In the 21st century there is a new concept I’d like to introduce to you-food deserts. Food desert is defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

In the town of Petersburg, Virginia, many residents live in food desert areas. Not only do these areas lack grocery stores, but there are also transportation barriers to access these stores. The high concentration of poverty is largely to blame for these issues at hand. Current research shows that the people of Petersburg shop at convenience stores and mini marts where there are currently not a lot of fresh produce and meat options available. Instead, children and adults may purchase the least healthy items possible such as candy or processed foods.

As an active member of Virginia Organizing, our goal is to provide these local corner stores with fresh food items grown locally in our newly opened, indoor farm facility established by Virginia State University’s agriculture department and funded by USDA. With this project, we hope to drastically influence the choices of not just the adults but also the children make when it comes to eating healthy.

Flash forward thousands of miles away, in the Caribbean island of Haiti, similar issues of poverty and lack of food persist. Instead of corner stores, inhabitants must struggle to plant, harvest, and prepare their own meals. The ability to access local food is dramatically thwarted because of nearly non-existent transportation and extremely hazardous road conditions. Thanks to the efforts of Lighthouse Lands non-profit organization, women are provided the opportunity to learn sustainable farming techniques to provide meals for themselves and their families for generations to come.

Although in two separate locations, these are real issues in the world, and could even occur in your own backyard. Both these issues tug at the hearts of the more fortunate and remind us not to take our daily provisions for granted. We are blessed to have the resources and necessities at hand for a bright and healthy future.

About the Author: Camil Davis 28 year old graduate from the College of William and Mary, earning her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a focus on developmental psychology. She has a passion for children’s health education which she promotes while engaging in projects with United Way Young Leader’s Society. Here she serves as the Community Connections chair.  She has also worked in Haiti on a sustainable farming program. She currently serves as the Chapter leader for the Virginia Organizing campaign on food deserts. Outside of health education, she also endeavors in real estate investing, and encourages reading with her local book club, and teaches in the children’s ministry at her place of worship. Email: davis.camil@gmail.com

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