How To Fix a Food Desert

The term “food desert” conjures up images of barren wastes, but we should not think of them as far away places – they are all around us. Slate Labs put together this interactive map (right) of households in food deserts in the U. S. by county.

A food desert is defined as an area with little to no access to healthy food options. This is not to say that there are no food options nearby at all. To the contrary, people who live in these areas are often well served by fast food and convenience stores offering many cheap food options, but few healthy ones.

The causes of food deserts are numerous: poverty, ethnicity, geography, and others. Certainly we would have to add to the list the dissolution of rural communities and the relational ties they used to contain. And the solutions, rather than being simple as the title of this post would suggest, are as complicated as their causes. However, the story of the Anathoth Community Garden, points toward one.

Cedar Grove United Methodist Church is located in a food desert. When the church was given five acres they thought the best way to use it to bless their community was to turn it into a garden, and so the Anathoth Community Garden was born. At the garden residents of the community around Cedar Grove exchange work in the garden for the fruits of the garden.

Its a small, local solution to a large problem, but perhaps that is how the large problems get fixed at all.

I was listening to a lecture by a British friend recently on the topic of America. He said, “The poverty of the underprivileged¬†within America’s own borders is one of the greatest challenges the U. S. faces today. … If they American church was mobilized the blessings to the earth would be incalculable.” Certainly his comment applies even to the work of putting good food on our neighbors tables and turning food deserts into oases of life.


  1. Have you read the book by Mark Winne, Closing the Food Gap Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty? It may address some of the cotnmems you make in your thoughful presentation. One thought that I have is to have churches and other non-profits direct their funds to purchase CSA’s and vouchers for Farmer’s Markets for use by poorer people to make their own purchases so farmers will make money instead of these direct food distribution efforts on the part of food pantries and food banks.

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