The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food deserts as locations without easy access to fresh, healthy, and affordable foods. Food consumed in food deserts is often high in cholesterol, sugar and fat.
Areas considered to be food deserts are prominent in Jacksonville, as indicated in green on the USDA Food Access Research Atlas. The majority of Jacksonville's food deserts lie within the I-295 beltway. Strategically, that is where the Feeding Northeast Florida distribution center is located as well.
The 32254 community in particular is an extreme food desert, and one of the city's most impoverished areas. In a time in which the nation has under a 4% unemployment, the 32254 neighborhood's unemployment rate is nearly 40%. There are families living there who have no access or very little access to nutritious food.
"Food insecurity by itself is a challenge. Food insecurity requires families to choose between paying for their utility bill or buying food, or transportation and buying food, or medicine and buying food," said Feeding Northeast Florida President and CEO Frank D. Castillo. "The implication of food insecurity on health in Northeast Florida is $900 million. That means that there are costs that are being absorbed by others; that if we don't get ahead of the curve on health and the implication of what food insecurity does, then you are going to be paying a significant amount later on. Insurance premiums continue to go up, coverages continue to be reduced, hospitals continue to write of receivables that they cannot get back, and all of these things effect the economy as we know it."
Feeding Northeast Florida is committed to hosting mobile food pantries in food desert communities to help infuse healthy foods back into the economies. These types of distributions are intended to bridge the gap, but are only a temporary solution. The Food Bank is committed to getting to the root causes that are creating food insecurity.
"We are collaborating with different organizations, we are collaborating with our partners that work tirelessly every day to ensure that we are not only breaking the cycle of poverty but that we are doing the things that we need to do to ensure that we have a healthier community tomorrow," Castillo said.
Join us in our mission to take back our communities by helping us raise funding for food deserts.