You’re cooking dinner and realize you’re missing an ingredient. Can you run to the store and get what you need? Is there even one nearby?
If not, you might live in what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls a food desert.
“You don’t have easy access to a store where you can buy good quality food; it’s too far away from you to be easy for you to access,” said Richard LeBer, president and CEO of the Harry Chapin Food Bank.
That is the case for about 70% of the people living in Southwest Florida.
The 2019 map from the USDA shows the food deserts in the area.
The area in green is considered low-income and at least a mile from a grocery store.
“Some places are obvious like you know, when you’re out east in the middle of the Everglades somewhere, it’s, you know, might be 20 miles or more to a food store Glades County, there is no full-service retail food store in Glades County at all,” LeBer said.
According to a 2014 study from Johns Hopkins University, Black communities are more likely to be food deserts, a possible result of racial residential segregation. The food that is there is often more expensive.
Dunbar is no exception. The only store in the 33916 area code is the Bravo Supermarket on Palm Beach Boulevard.
“If you want to get produce, and you don’t want to pay a fortune for it. It’s hard for people in those parts of town to do that on a regular basis, particularly if they’re working and they’re caring for kids, and they have limited time and all of that,” LeBer said.
Pastor Gregory Ford, of First Assembly Cornerstone in Dunbar, sees the need for a grocery store with fresh food firsthand.
“It will be a little more convenience for the families, especially when you got the families that don’t have proper transportation to get around,” Ford said.
They end up having to rely on Uber, taxis, or friends.
Hopefully, the community won’t have to wait and walk far for much longer. Under the umbrella of the Greater Dunbar Initiative, help is on the way.
It’s a multi-million dollar plan to improve the neighborhood and the lives of the people in it by fixing and creating more housing, creating jobs, and giving the area access to healthy food with a brand-new grocery store.
“It also establishes our community as being a community that people live in. That these people deserve to be able to have these things,” Ford said.
But that could be years down the road. And everyone, no matter where they live, deserves fresh, healthy, affordable food.
You can help the issue of food deserts by donating to the Harry Chapin Food Bank. WINK News is hoping to raise enough funds for 1 million meals.
HOW TO HELP:
Help us raise $450,000 to put a million meals on the tables of hungry families in Southwest Florida.
You can donate by visiting our March to a Million Meals donation page.