When it comes to hunger, food deserts are a concern appearing on more and more people’s radar. And we at the Storehouse are working to be an oasis in that desert.
What is a Food Desert?
Simply put, food deserts are areas that lack easy access to fresh, healthy food. Items such as fresh, whole fruits and vegetables. Many organizations have different definitions about what this means exactly. For example, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), a “food desert” is a low-income census tract that does not have easy access to a supermarket. In a city, that may mean living a half mile or more from a large grocery store. In a rural area, it may mean 10 miles or more. The USDA has a map that helps people identify food deserts in their local area.
In this sense, “food insecurity” may not necessarily mean a complete lack of food. Rather, it is a lack of nutritious food. For example, an area might have convenience stores or small shops, which offer snacks. Technically, that is food. However, it is not fresh food that is good for your health. In fact, communities in food deserts have a disproportionate amount of diabetes and heart disease. In addition, convenience stores and small shops typically have higher prices than a supermarket which puts a further strain on a low-income family.
Often, food deserts are located in the poorest neighborhoods, where residents are mostly people of color. NPR shared a story about Toni, a 71-year-old Washington, D.C. retiree who has to take two busses and an over a 40-minute commute, one way, just to get fresh food.
There are lots of examples closer to New Mexico. For example, the Navajo Nation, an area larger than West Virginia and Delaware combined, has only about a dozen grocery stores.
The COVID pandemic and supply disruptions have made situations worse. Food prices rising all over the country. However, rural communities are feeling that impact even more. With labor and supply shortages, it is more difficult to get products to outlying areas. Therefore, smaller towns are seeing less food. The USDA estimates that almost 40 million people live in areas without easy food access.
What the Storehouse is Doing to Help Improve Access to Food for People Living in Food Deserts
Food deserts are common across the United States. That is true in New Mexico, too. In fact, the USDA notes that most of New Mexico is a food desert. In fact, when the distance criteria is defined as a mile, the food pantry is completely surrounded by food deserts.
For this reason, the Storehouse works hard to provide easy access to fresh produce, meat, and dairy for our clients. Overall, our mission involves providing free food. However, the Storehouse also believes that we have a responsibility to provide fresh nutritious food, as well. The Storehouse works with local grocers and farmers to offer fresh fruits and vegetables to the people who come to the pantry for food.
This aspect of our work is important. Fewer than 1 in 10 adults and children eat the recommended servings of vegetables per day. It is proven that eating a proper diet improves physical health. Beyond that, it can improve mental health, as well. Harvard notes that nutritious diets come with a lower risk of depression.
The Storehouse has fresh produce on-hand nearly every day of our operation. Clients also receive dairy products and meats the vast majority of the time. Of course, as a food pantry, the Storehouse also has plenty of shelf-stable items to offer. When families turn to the food pantry they always get canned fruits, vegetables, and soups. Not to mention, tuna and other canned meats, as well as peanut butter.
The Storehouse also encourages cooking at home with these healthier options. The pantry provides recipes on Facebook of simple, delicious, and healthy meals.
You Can Be Part of this Food Oasis!
Did you know that the Storehouse helps families get healthy, fresh, and nutritious food in an efficient manner? Your contributions help make that possible. Of course all pantries appreciate canned food drives. But, financial gifts often make the difference in our ability to provide fresh foods.
Donor investments in the pantry go a long way. In fact, every dollar donated becomes five meals for someone in need. Furthermore, the pantry runs in a lean, efficient manner. Fully 97 cents of every dollar donated goes straight to feeding clients in need, from babies to seniors.
The Storehouse cannot fulfill it’s mission to feed hungry families on its own. The food pantry relies on support from generous people who care about providing food to people in need. By working together, the Storehouse can remain an oasis in a food desert.
Donate today to our spring campaign for local families!