Recently, an Aldi in North Minneapolis—one of the area’s three main sources of fresh produce and basic necessities at an accessible price point—permanently shuttered its doors. This frustrating development is not by any means a new one. Grocery store closures have been impacting marginalized communities for decades, leaving residents in food deserts or turning areas into food swamps.
Let’s take a closer look at those food swamps, the impact of the availability of unhealthy food, and some ways that communities have banded together to seek healthy options and food justice.
What Is a Food Swamp?
A food swamp is an area with an overabundance of unhealthy food options, such as fast food, convenience stores, and other high-calorie, low-nutrient options. These areas often lack access to affordable healthy options, such as grocery stores like Aldi. Whereas food deserts demonstrate a disproportionate lack of food options, food swamps are over-allocated, or “swamped,” with unhealthy food. This all but forces residents into unhealthy diets, often resulting in health problems and decreased overall well-being.
Why Is Fast Food Bad for You?
Fast food is often associated with poor nutrition and negative health outcomes like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It’s high in calories, unhealthy fats, and added sugars, which can lead to weight gain and chronic health conditions. Furthermore, fast food is often low in essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which are important for maintaining good health.
Because of these nutritional deficits, when fast food and other unhealthy options are abundant in food swamps, residents often face accompanying negative health outcomes. Studies have shown that living in a food swamp can increase stroke risk for adults 50 years and older. Food swamps have also been noted as a predictor of obesity.
Access to Healthy Food
Marginalized communities often face significant barriers to accessing healthy food, including limited financial resources, lack of transportation, and geographic isolation. These communities are more likely to be designated as food swamps. Tackling these disparities requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both the availability and affordability of healthy food options, as well as social and economic factors that impact marginalized communities.
For those living in communities that lack access to healthy food options, finding nutritious food can be challenging. However, there are resources available to help individuals and families make healthier food choices, such as farmers markets and community gardens.
It’s also helpful to look to local organizations that help with food access, like Appetite For Change. We distribute fresh fruits and vegetables to North Minneapolis through our urban agriculture projects, deliver food with Community Meals, and offer cooking resources via Community Cooks workshops.
Appetite For Change uses food as a tool to build health, wealth, and social change in North Minneapolis. We bring our community together to learn, cook, eat, and grow food, creating change that lasts. Donate today to support our incredible impact in North Minneapolis! Together, we can create well-rooted and flourishing change!