Why are Gary Nabhan and Kelly Watters so adamantly opposed to the use of the term “food desert”

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In urban studies classes we often talk about “white flight,” the period in post-WWII America when many white middle class Americans fled urban centers for the suburbs. How often, however, do we hear or talk about “supermarket flight?” As one of the contributing factors to “grocery gaps” and “food deserts,” discussed in this week’s readings, “supermarket flight” continues to be an endemic problem in cities nationwide (Gottlieb and Joshi, 40, Truehaft and Karpyn, 11). In fact, the flight that began in the 1960s and 1970s has left a mark on American inner cities and is now being considered a central food justice issue.

This week, I have organized our discussion questions around three themes – politics, access and activism. You should feel free to answer any two of the three questions posed for this week.

1. “Let’s junk the term ‘food deserts’ forever, and change government policies that have inexorably fostered food dead zones in both rural and urban areas. It’s time we quit intensifying the inequities in the globalized food economy and start investing in a food future that creates true food justice by wedding relocalization with fair trade between regions” (Nabhan and Watters, 2-3).

Why are Gary Nabhan and Kelly Watters so adamantly opposed to the use of the term “food desert” and the USDA’s Food Desert Locator? What are the implications of the use of terms like food desert, grocery gap or food insecurity in a political discussion about food injustice and policymaking? If you follow Gottlieb and Joshi’s argument closely, you will see that even when large retail stores are available in inner city neighborhoods, it is the processed, high calorie, high sugar foods that get the most shelf space and the most valuable real estate in the store. Why do fast food chains outnumber grocery stores where fresh produce is sold in lower income neighborhoods? Is anyone angered by the so-called “slotting fees” discussed on page 45 in which manufacturers paying for the most “advantageous place on the shelves?” And, how much does economic class, race, and even our zip code help to determine these choices?

For question #1, please choose 3 of these questions and respond.
2. “Studies find that residents with greater access to supermarkets or a greater abundance of healthy foods in neighborhood food stores consume more fresh produce and other healthful items” (Truehaft and Karpyn, 8)

While there have been clear studies that suggest that obesity and weight gain are linked to increased access to fast food and high sugar products like soda (Gottlieb and Joshi, 51-58) it seems that there have been fewer studies that have suggested that access to fresh produce reduces risks of obesity and other chronic health conditions. For me, this is one of the strongest findings presented by Truehaft and Karpyn, which is that greater access to healthier foods means greater consumption of these products. “Access,” as discussed in the articles that we have read this week, includes more than transportation access. Describe one or two different types of access that are discussed (i.e. income, marketing, retail location, etc.). When you answer this question, make sure that you show support for your suggestion based on the arguments in the reading.

NOTE: This article discusses how South Central Los Angeles banned more fast food restaurants from their communities and why. Check it out: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/us/16fastfood.html?_r=0
3. “You say that you want a REVOLUTION…” The Beatles, 1968

There are many organizations that are currently working to fight food insecurity and food access inequities. In San Diego, for example, the New Roots Community Farm http://hiddensandiego.net/new-roots-community-farm.php works with the City Heights Farmers Market to not only provide health produce to a lower-income (food desert) neighborhood, but to also provide land for immigrant farmers to farm where they can grow the crops and produce that are native to their culture.
For this question, I’d like you to find an organization from your hometown or current neighborhood that you believe is working to fight issues of food insecurity and food access. Tell us a little bit about the organization and how they are addressing the issues raised in this week’s readings. If you’re in San Diego, you’re welcome to use New Roots and the Bahati Mamas. If you can find a relevant picture, please include it in your post (not as an attachment or link). This can be brief, the goal is to show how people are working to start a food revolution!

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