23.5 million people in the U.S. live in a food desert. Food deserts are areas where residents do not have access to affordable, healthy food options because of the absence of a full service grocery store within a mile of their home. According to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, living in a food desert is associated with obesity and a host of chronic, diet-related diseases and linked to diabetes and cancer. Studies show that in Chicago the death rate from diabetes in a food desert is twice that of areas with access to grocery stores.
One way we have approached this issue in DeKalb County is with the establishment of DeKalb County Community Gardens. The organization has established 55 community garden sites around the County.
According to the American Public Health Association recently released report community gardens foster interactions within and across generations, resulting in less isolation as well as more cohesion, civic participation, and neighborhood attachment. Community gardens also reduce stress levels for those who visit or frequently walk by them. They help children develop positive feelings about nature and facilitate learning.
As one woman who raises food in one of the more than 800 community gardens and urban farms in Chicago said, “They’re safe havens. Even the gangbangers respect what we are doing.”
It takes many paths to turn a food desert into a food destination. Community gardens is one path.
I'm Dan Kenney, and that's my perspective.