Protecting our Communities 

In food deserts, healthy foods like fruits and vegetables can be extremely expensive or missing entirely. Research shows food deserts disproportionately affect minority and low-income neighborhoods.

A Florida Issue

For those living in food deserts, a lack of easily accessible healthy food may mean choosing between eating unhealthy, processed foods, or not eating at all.

In South Florida, there are more than 300 food deserts.

Eliminating Food Deserts

We Can:

  • Protect the health and support to Floridians

  • Grow Florida's agriculture industry in low-income communities

  • Expand access to healthier foods

Food deserts are a major concern for Florida citizens, communities, and public health experts. Food deserts not only make food more expensive and harder to find, they threaten the health of entire communities. It is essential that action is taken to reduce the number of food deserts in Florida. The Commissioner of Agriculture has the power to eliminate this problem by expanding the practice of locally growing foods. 

 

What is a food desert?

The USDA defines a food desert as an area where a “substantial number or share of residents” have “low levels of access to retail outlets selling healthy and affordable food.”[1] Essentially, food deserts are areas where residents lack access to grocery stores and other sources of food. In food deserts, healthy foods like fruits and vegetables can be extremely expensive or missing entirely. Research shows food deserts disproportionately affect minority and low-income neighborhoods.[2]

 

For those living in food deserts, a lack of easily accessible healthy food may mean choosing between eating unhealthy, processed foods, or not eating at all. Unhealthy diets can lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other related conditions. Research has established a clear link between food deserts and increased health problems in communities. [3]

 

According to the USDA’s most recent food access research report, 12.8% of Americans — more than 39 million people — live in food deserts. In South Florida, there are more than 300 food deserts.[4] It is clear that millions of Floridians are struggling because they don’t have access to healthy, affordable food to feed themselves and their families.

 

[1] https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2011/december/data-feature-mapping-food-deserts-in-the-us/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11777675/

[3] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-are-food-deserts#summary

[4]https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/turning-food-deserts-into-oases-many-in-south-florida-lack-easy-access-to-fresh-affordable-groceries/2278132/

Education

So, What Can We Do?!

The Agriculture Commissioner oversees the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, a division that will be vital to helping solve this issue. This division supervises food assistance programs that aim to solve the issue of food deserts, distribute federal and state funds, certify that USDA foods are reaching families, and provide outreach, guidance, and technical support to participating food banks, food pantries, and other feeding sites.

 

This department has the power to give resources to areas that are currently being underserved by federal programs and to help families gain access to healthy food.[1]

 

Additionally, the Agriculture Commissioner can encourage the growth of healthy food in areas where it is lacking. For example, in urban areas. Food deserts are common in dense urban areas where not much fresh food is grown.

 

Experts have developed a plethora of ways to facilitate farming in urban areas, from rooftop gardens to vertical farming (a process by which crops in urban areas are grown on top of each other, rather than in traditional, horizontal rows). With the support of the Commissioner of Agriculture, new methods of farming can make the local growing of healthy foods a reality throughout the state.[2]

 

[1]https://www.fdacs.gov/News-Events/Press-Releases/2022-Press-Releases/Commissioner-Fried-Announces-2.5-Million-in-Food-Assistance-Infrastructure-for-Floridians-in-Need?fbclid=IwAR1DtLHDe8uo1jA4aaFbpJ_TDav9OD9V4VL2oczuHTAFJcTdiPt9KbmbT9M#:~:text=The%20division%20administers%20TEFAP%20foods,pantries%2C%20and%20other%20feeding%20sites.

[2]https://abcnews.go.com/US/moveable-feast-container-farming-solution-us-food-deserts/story?id=87121775

Expanding Agriculture

Introducing new methods of local farming will help end food deserts. For example, experts have developed a plethora of ways to facilitate farming in urban areas, from rooftop gardens to vertical farming