1. "The food desert myth It's an article of faith that poor people in the inner cities get fat because they lack fresh produce -- and it's dead wrong 2. Almost nobody has a weight problem in West Harlem. 3. Or at least theyre not supposed to, because Fairway is smack in the heart of it, selling fresh produce at decent prices and even offering a free shuttle service for neighborhood residents. Its been there for over 15 years that is, a generation of people have grown up alongside it. 4. But obesity is much more prevalent in West Harlem than in Greenwich Village. This is a problem for the idea that food deserts make poor people disproportionately overweight. 5. The story goes that supermarkets with low-priced fresh vegetables and fruit moved out of poor neighborhoods amidst white flight. This, we are told, left residents with paltry and overpriced produce from bodegas. The result: salty, fattening fast food and junk food as the only viable alternatives. a. The idea is now so entrenched that undergraduates often cite it earnestly. Its on the tonguetips of people at any Blue America dinner party. It sticks easily in the memory and even feels good, because it entails that the obesity problem is due in part to racism. The institutional kind, mind you maybe call it injustice. b. Hence the food desert idea is now common wisdom. Yet its impossible to live in New York and not suspect that something doesnt quite work about this thesis. 6. The U.S. Department of Agricultures food desert locator, for example unveiled in 2011 found almost no food deserts in New York City except in some of the wide-open spaces near Kennedy airport. 7. ...academic studies only had so much to tell us about whether there was a correlation between waistline size and how far away the supermarket is. But these days, the data is in....last year, a major study under the Nutrition Transition Program led by Dr. Barry Popkin showed that proximity of supermarkets has not affected peoples eating habits,... a. ...the evidence is becoming crushing that the emperor has no clothes. Helen Lees study at the Public Policy Institute now confirms the impression that a walk around New York City suggests: Nationwide, the neighborhoods with lots of bodegas and fast food joints also tend to be the ones with the most supermarkets. 8. Roland Sturm at RAND studied 13,000 California children and then middle school students nationwide. He found, both times, that a supermarket close by doesnt make a kid thin and living far from one doesnt make him fat. Michelle Obamas Healthy Food Initiative is well intended. But her claim that if people want to buy a head of lettuce they have to take two or three buses, maybe pay for a taxicab, in order to do it, just doesnt jibe with the facts. 9. The key point is that supermarkets have never been inaccessible to poor people in the way that we have been told.... How you eat is due as much to cultural preferences as to how far away a supermarket is. a. For black people... the problem is more a matter of history than where the Key Food is. ...Southern blacks brought their culinary tastes north. Zora Neale Hurston used to bless her friend Langston Hughes with fried chicken dinners. b. Its what soul food is, and its unclear to me that anyone would deny its centrality to black culture. If I am at an event where one of the main reception snacks is fried chicken drummies, it is almost certainly a black one. The person who makes collard greens with hamhocks is usually not white. 10. Another thing to target is what people consider a schlep to be. One typical food desert piece interviews a woman of 50 who considers 12 blocks a daunting distance to the supermarket. But Im 46 and thats how far the nearest supermarket is from me.Are we who work out and pride ourselves as walking New Yorkers doing poor people a favor by calling it racism when the supermarket is a 15 minute walk down the road? 11.... the studies are clearly showing that we have to put on a different pair of glasses for this issue. ...we must do this with the welfare of the people in mind, not as a way of making ourselves feel good about our own enlightenment. Poor people do have access to healthy food: This is good news. If anyone finds it unwelcome, inconvenient or even just unengaging, we must question their motives." The food desert myth - NY Daily News What???? No Racism???? Quick....intervention needed for our Liberal friends!!!!!