The “Food Desert” Myth

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on April 19, 2012

I have no problems with efforts undertaken by Michelle Obama to encourage people to exercise more, lose weight, and be healthy as a consequence. However, in addition to ensuring that her “Let’s Move” campaign is not excessively nannyish, such efforts must be–oh, what is the word I am looking for here?–reality-based.

And alas, they are not. The First Lady and her allies in the battle over nutrition policy like to claim that poor neighborhoods are “food deserts”; large swaths of land filled with fast food restaurants, but bereft of supermarkets where nutritious fare may be found. As it turns out, that claim is just not accurate.

But public policy is being made based on the inaccurate claim, and according to the story, Michelle Obama’s office is not doing much to correct misapprehensions regarding “food deserts.” When confronted by the data found in the New York Times story, Team FLOTUS’s first instinct was to refer all questions to the Department of Agriculture. To be sure, the department has some ‘splainin’ to do, but the First Lady’s people should have admitted error in spreading the “food desert” myth, along with providing promises that henceforth, nutrition policy would actually take facts into account. Unfortunately, such assurances don’t appear to be forthcoming anytime soon.

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