Food Deserts Mar the Land of Plenty

 Diabetes-Forecast: September 1, 2013

Steph Larsen knows about farming. As a small farmer, assistant director of organizing at the Center for Rural Affairs, and a former columnist at Grist, an environmental newsmagazine, she’s had her hands in the soil and has harvested healthy food. And yet, despite living out in the farm fields from Wisconsin to Montana, she can’t necessarily go pick her dinner every night, and neither can her neighbors.

“You know what they farm? Field corn and soybeans [for animal feed], which no people eat,” she says. “That is the irony. In rural America, you’re surrounded by agricultural land or ranching land, but you can’t grab a cow out of a field … and grill up some ribs that night.”

Likewise, as manager of Dining With Diabetes, an education program offered through the North Dakota State University Extension Office, Megan Myrdal, LRD, knew her clients had questions about eating healthy food. But for many of them, the question wasn’t what to eat but where to find it.

“They come from rural areas, and in many of those local communities they’ve lost their local grocery stores,” says Myrdal, a licensed registered dietitian. “It’s actually quite an irony: They have all this food around them [on farms], but they have limited access to fresh food. It’s not the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables we want to see people consuming on a regular basis.” Read more