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Access to Fast Food Vs.

Fresh Produce
Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce: What if Your Race, Ethnicity and
Socioeconomic Status Shaped Your Food Choices
Socioloy of Race and Ethnicity
!y "lana "srael
April #$
th
, %$&#
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
"ntroduction
'he (nited States today is facin hih le)els of health pro*lems includin o*esity,
heart disease and dia*etes. 'here are many factors that contri*ute to these pro*lems, one of
+hich is lac, of access to healthy food. 'hese health pro*lems are found across the (nites
States, ho+e)er some areas are strulin more than others to find their +ay to healthy food
and that is associated +ith these health pro*lems. 'hese food ine-ualities are pre)alent in
many lo+er socioeconomic areas and ethnic and racial minority areas includin .etroit,
/ichian. .etroit is one of the ma0or cities that is e1periencin +hat has *een referred to as a
2 3food desert,4 areas characteri5ed *y poor access to healthy and afforda*le food, may
contri*ute to social and spatial disparities in diet and diet6related health outcomes7. 8!eaulac,
9rist0ansson : Cummins, %$$;< 'his is a term that is used larely *y researchers, ho+e)er it
is fro+ned upon *y some .etroit residents *ecause of its neati)e connotation and the factors
that are used in cateori5in an area as a 2food desert,7 as ela*orated upon in this paper.
"n .etroit the racial and ethnic ine-uality related to food access is )ey hih. .etroit
has a population of =$>,?@?, @%.=A of that population is African American and =A of that
population is Batino. 'his ma,es the population of .etroit around a ;$A minority population.
.etroit faces the issue of one of the most racially and ethnically sereated cities in the
(nited States. 8C.etroit -uic,facts,C %$&#< 'he issue of racial sereation and socioeconomic
di)ision leads to +here rocery stores and restaurants +ill decide to locate. Bi)in in a
society +here it is less e1pensi)e and more readily a)aila*le for people to *uy fast food than
to *uy healthy roceries to ma,e meals contri*utes to a hih rate of o*esity in the population
in the (nited States. 'his paper +ill focus on the issues and pro*lems that .etroit faces +hen
it comes to healthy food access includin: +hat are the issues that are oin on no+, +hat
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
current strateies are *ein ta,en to address these issues, and +hat are the recommendations
for the future of .etroit to impro)e access to healthy afforda*le foods.
What are the issues that are oin on riht no+D
'here are many issues that .etroit is facin no+ in terms of healthy food accessi*ility.
'he ma0or pro*lem that is occurrin is the lac, of healthy food in the ur*an areas at an
afforda*le price. 'he lac, of access to healthy afforda*le foods is leadin to an increase in the
amount of health pro*lems. 'he ma0or health issues that are *ein seen are dia*etes, heart
disease and o*esity. 'he rate of heart disease in .etroit is &E times more common than it is in
the entire (nited States. 8Schul5, %$&#< 'he larest increases in health disparities related to
diet are more )isi*le in racial and ethnic minorities alon +ith roups +ith lo+er
socioeconomic status.
"n the (nited States as a +hole #@A of African Americans are considered as o*ese and
%=A of Fispanics are o*ese, these are in comparison to %&A of the entire population in the
(nited States *ein classified as o*ese 8!a,er, Schootman, !arnide : 9elly, %$$><. "n the
city of .etroit, one study reported that =$A of the adults and close to G$A of the youth are
o)er+eiht or o*ese. Furthermore, it +as found that close to =?A of adults and @$A of youth
do not eat the ade-uate -uantities of )eeta*les and fruits that are recommended *y the (S.A
recommendations for a healthy diet. 8!a,er, Schootman, !arnide : 9elly, %$$><. 'he
increasin poor health of the population is a ro+in pro*lem and can *e directly lin,ed to an
unhealthy diet. 'his paper sho+s ho+ it is not al+ays in an indi)iduals control if they can eat
a healthy diet and that is +hy healthy food access at afforda*le prices is so important. Plus
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
this paper sho+s ho+ racial and ethnic ine-ualities contri*ute to the lac, of access issues and
in turn lead to potential neati)e health outcomes.
'he access to healthy afforda*le food in .etroit is a ma0or issue that is facin racial
and ethnic minorities. 'he neih*orhoods in .etroit are )ery sereated *y race and
socioeconomic status. Some of the neih*orhoods ha)e *een la*eled as o*esoenic, +hich is
defined as an area +here it is more accessi*le for people to *uy foods that are hih in calories
and fat +ith lo+ nutritional )alues than to *uy healthy afforda*le food. 8Hdoms6Youn, Ien,
: /anson, %$$;< "n the local neih*orhoods in .etroit there tend to *e small local
con)enience stores, that sell primarily unhealthy food.
"n an inter)ie+ +ith (ni)ersity of /ichian researcher .r. Amy Schul5 she said that
one of the reasons that the local con)enience stores lac, healthy fruits and )eeta*les is
*ecause they do not ha)e a fast enouh turn around to *e a*le to carry the fresh produce. 'hey
stoc, the shel)es, *ut after a fe+ days they end up +ith more food that has one to the *ad,
+hich has pro)en to not *e cost effecti)e. 8Schul5, %$&#<
'here is also a lac, of lare rocery stores in .etroit and that pro)es to *e a pro*lem
*ecause people can *uy food at a less e1pensi)e cost and closer to +here they li)e *y eatin at
a fast food restaurant. Hne of the ma0or reasons that this has happened in the city of .etroit is
*ecause it once had lare rocery stores that came into the city and they caused the smaller
2mom and pop7 con)enience stores to close *ecause they could not compete +ith the lare
stores. When the lare stores chose to lea)e that meant that the entire neih*orhood +as left
+ithout ade-uate food resources. "t is important to note that the lare stores chose to lea)e
durin the period of +hite fliht and economic disin)estment, +hich is another e1ample of the
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
racial and ethnic ine-ualities that is faced *y the African American and Batino populations in
.etroit. 8Hdoms6Youn, Ien, : /anson, %$$;<
When loo,in into the term 2food desert7 and learnin that it is not rearded as a
2positi)e7 term to use +hen discussin the food climate in .etroit, researcher .r. Schul5
e1pressed that the term 2food desert7 is normally defined *y researchers +hen )ie+in areas
that do not ha)e supermar,ets in close distance to neih*orhoods +here people li)e. 'hus,
this term is applied +ithout reconi5in that farmers mar,ets and small con)enience stores
that sell food may *e present in the area. Some people in .etroit tal, a*out the hue
)ariations that can *e seen across the city and in different neih*orhoods in terms of food
access, hence the city as a +hole is not a 2food desert7. "n some neih*orhoods there are lots
of stores to et produce, for e1ample, the predominantly Batino South+est neih*orhood,
+hereas others there are almost none, for e1ample, eastside .etroit. 8Schul5, %$&#<
Hne of the ma0or points that .r. Schul5 made +as that there are many factors that
contri*ute to a food en)ironment. A food en)ironment could consist of the -uality of the
produce, ho+ people are treated in that en)ironment 8e.., are they follo+ed around +hen
they enter a rocery store, al+ays *ein +atched<, and the e1tent to +hich people are *ein
e1posed to unhealthy foods 8e.., )isual aspects, seein fast food ad)ertisements and
restaurants on e)ery corner<. .r. Schul5 mentioned a ne+ term that is *ein used 2unhealthy
food s+amps7 +hich means that in some neih*orhoods there is o)ere1posure to unhealthy
foods and lo+ access to healthy foods. She said there are too many terms that o)er simplify
and o)er loo, the many layers that o into a food en)ironment. 'he ma0or -uestions to
consider in determinin a positi)e food en)ironment in a community are: can people afford
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
the healthy produce, is it -uality produce, is healthy food accessi*le or is the community
dominated +ith unhealthy foods +ith poor nutritional )aluesD 8Schul5, %$&#<
'here ha)e *een many research roups that ha)e come into the city to loo, at the food
access that is a)aila*le. 'hey ha)e done assessments such as rocery store audits, +hich
include loo,in at the )ariety and -uality of fresh fruits and )eeta*le sold at the rocery store
and the afforda*le of the food for the local community. Hne of the ma0or concerns that has
*een noted +hen researchin different retail food outlets located in the city of .etroit is that
most researchers ather their list of stores from commercial listins or o)ernmental aencies
and use them to create a neih*orhood food en)ironment. "t has *een *rouht to the attention
of many of the researchers that it is important to reali5e that the data*ases *ein used to
pro)ide that information may hinder the a*ility of the researchers to et relia*le data for
African American neih*orhoods. 8Ien,, Schul5, "srael, James, !ao, Wilson, %$$?< 'his is
*ecause these data*ases do not sho+ independentK small6o+ned supermar,ets. 'hese tend to
*e common stores for people to shop at in these neih*orhoods. 'here is also another ma0or
pro*lem +ith these data*ases that they do not ta,e into consideration that there are stores that
are not typically seen as *ein a rocery store *ut +hich do sell roceries. Some e1amples of
the stores that are e1cluded include: 2dollar7 stores and 'aret. 8Hdoms6Youn, Ien, :
/anson, %$$;< 'he t+o ma0or pro*lems a*o)e create challenes +hen tryin to fully ae the
healthy afforda*le food crisis that is happenin in .etroit.
'he lare num*er of fast food restaurants that are located close to +here .etroit
residents li)e as compared to lare rocery stores that are located further a+ay, contri*ute to
people choosin to eat at fast food restaurants instead of shoppin for healthier food. A
doctoral student at the (ni)ersity of /ichian, Shannon Ien,, did her thesis paper on loo,in
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
at demoraphic factors in .etroit and ho+ that affects the health and food access of the
population. She found that in areas in .etroit that had a hih le)el of African American
population and houses that had lo+ socioeconomic statuses had the poorest access to healthy
fresh afforda*le produce. Where as in neih*orhoods that +ere more multi6racial and had 0ust
a slihtly hiher socioeconomic status had *etter access to afforda*ly healthy fresh produce.
'his sho+s that raceKethnicity and socioeconomic status di)ide the neih*orhoods in .etroit
and cause a difference in their access to afforda*le healthy produce. 8Schul5, %$&#<
What current strateies are *ein ta,en to address these issuesD
'here are many prorams that are oin on in the city of .etroit to address the
inade-uate access to afforda*le healthy foods. Some of these prorams consist of ur*an
farminKariculture, food carts, satellite farmers mar,ets, and increased access to produce in
local con)enience stores. 'he oal for each of these prorams is to i)e the local
neih*orhoods access to healthy afforda*le foods +hile still ,eepin a 2community feel7 that
miht diminish if a lare rocery store +ere to *e put in the neih*orhood instead. Each of
these prorams +ill *e descri*ed in more detail *elo+.
'he ur*an farminKariculture prorams in .etroit in)ol)e the utili5ation of )acant
and a*andoned lots to create community run or orani5ation run ardens that pro)ide fresh
produce +ithin the city *oundaries. /any of the lots in .etroit ha)e *een )acant for years and
the land is not *ein used. 'here is estimated to *e around ?$$6>$$ community lots *ein
used in .etroit for ur*an farmin no+, *ut some researchers say that until the o)ernment
reconi5es the *enefits of ur*an farmin and supports the locals +ho are parta,in in ur*an
farmin, the community of farmers +ill continue to stay small. 8Bachance, %$$G< !ecause of
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
the lac, of o)ernment policies the residents that are ur*an farmin on )acant lots, they do
not o+n, ha)e no protection in instances of dispute +ith the lando+ners. !ecause many of the
)acant lots they are usin are still o+ned *y the city and there is a lac, of o)ernmental
policies to support those enaed in ur*an farmin. 'here are many positi)e outcomes that
come alon +ith ur*an farmin. 8Bachance, %$$G< 'hey include: pro)idin learnin
opportunities to children, ro+in and pro)idin nutritious food, and rein)ioratin and
*eautifyin neih*orhoods.
/any of the lots that are *ein used for ur*an farms are )acant and rundo+n lots, that
are o+ned *y a*sentee landlords or the city, +here most of the time they are o)erro+n and
co)ered +ith ar*ae. 'he lots +hen used for farmin allo+s for the neih*orhood to loo,
more maintained and pro)ide healthy afforda*le produce for the community. 'here are around
G$,$$$6>?,$$$ )acant lots in the city of .etroit and +ith the help of many non6profit
orani5ations they ha)e *een a*le to create the community ardens. 8Bachance, %$$G< 'he
ma0ority of the ur*an farms that are around today can *e found on the eastside of .etroit,
+hich consists of an African American ma0ority.
Food carts are another ne+ addition aimed at tryin to create a *etter food
en)ironment +ithin the city of .etroit. 'he concept *ehind these carts is that they tra)el
throuh neih*orhoods on certain days and times and sell fresh produce out of their truc,sL
this concept is similar to that of an ice cream truc,. Hne of the popular truc,s is Peaches and
Mreens and they sell fruits and )eeta*les in different neih*orhoods on a set schedule durin
the +ee, allo+in for repeat customers and consistency for the *uyers in the community.
8Schul5, %$&#< 'his allo+s for lo+er income and racially sereated neih*orhoods to access
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
food more readily +hile decreasin the cost and time of transportation to a supermar,et,
+hich is often a reat distance from +here people li)e.
'he third ma0or effort that is *ein ta,en is to create satellite farmers mar,ets in
neih*orhoods. "n .etroit there is one of the larest farmers mar,ets in the state of /ichian
called Eastern /ar,et, +hich is held on Saturdays. 'he idea +ith the satellite farmers mar,ets
is that they pro)ide people +ho li)e in areas +here they miht not *e a*le to tra)el to Eastern
/ar,et or they cannot ma,e it *ecause of the day, +ith smaller mar,ets located in their
neih*orhood. 'hese mar,ets are done durin the +ee, in different locations around the city
allo+in for people to not tra)el far and still recei)e fresh local produce. 8Schul5, %$&#<
Another initiati)e focuses on encourain and supportin local con)enience stores to
sell fresh produce. .r. Schul5 says that this not only promotes ,eepin the money in the
community, *ut allo+s for the con)enience stores to carry the produce +ith more insurance
that it +ill not o to the *ad. 8Schul5, %$&#< Hne of the pro0ects that is +or,in +ith the
con)enience stores is 'he .etroit Fealthy Corner Store "nitiati)e. 'his proram is *ased on
the eastside of .etroit 8around =;A African American< and is +or,in in con0unction +ith .r.
Pothu,uchi and her students at Wayne State (ni)ersity to encourae and educate storeo+ners
a*out the *enefits of carryin more fruits and )eeta*les. 8Carr, %$&&<
"n addition to these prorams, /ichian has a lare food6su*sidi5in proram +ith the
oal of pro)idin more healthy and afforda*le produce to people in .etroit. 'he .ou*le (p
Food !uc,s proram allo+s residents to cash in their !ride card money, formerly Food
Stamps, for to,ens that can *e spent at farmers mar,ets. 'hrouh this proram participants
dou*le the )alue on their *ride card money to purchase locally ro+n fresh fruits and
)eeta*les at no e1tra cost. 'hese can only *e spent on fresh produce that is ro+n in
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
/ichian. 'here are &# farmers mar,ets in the /etro .etroit area that are no+ acceptin
.ou*le (p Food !uc,s. 8Fair Food .etroit, %$&#< 'his allo+s a lare population to *e a*le to
afford not only healthy produce, *ut produce that +as ro+n locally. 'his is especially
important in the city of .etroit *ecause there is a &>.=A unemployment rate in the city and
that means that more people use !ride cards for food support. 'here are &.=? million people
in the state of /ichian that are recei)in !ride card *enefits. 'here is a lare population of
those recipients in .etroit and the ma0ority of them are African American and Batino. 8Fair
Food .etroit, %$&#< 'his is a direct correlation *et+een unemployment and lo+
socioeconomic status.
What are the recommendations for the future of .etroit to impro)e access to healthy foodsD
"n the future there are many different aspects that need to *e considered to help .etroit
re)i)e from the unhealthy and non6afforda*le healthy food climate that they ha)e *een
e1periencin for the past se)eral decades 'here is the need to address the local a)aila*ility of
healthy afforda*le produce at the e1istin store locations, such as corner con)enience stores.
.r. Schul5 said, there needs to *e an acti)e food community in the future of .etroit. An acti)e
food community +ould entail many different dimensions includin continuin the ro+th of
satellite farmers mar,ets, the food cart mo)ement and increasin the ur*an farmin. Fer
ma0or point in reards to the food access for the future +as that the food en)ironment must *e
one +here the healthy food is as afforda*le as the unhealthy food and 0ust as accessi*le. She
2hopes to see that all of the different strateies that are happenin no+ continue to e)ol)e and
that allo+s people to choose +here they +ant to o, they can choose to create a food
en)ironment +ith lots of options.7 8Schul5, %$&#<
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
As discussed throuhout this paper, the neih*orhoods in the city of .etroit are
sereated *y raceKethnicity and socioeconomic status and they need to *e loo,ed at
indi)idually +hen tryin to pro)ide assistance in creatin a healthy food climate. 'here has
already *een +or, that is oin on in the city of .etroit, *ut more needs to *e done at the city,
state and federal le)el to pass policies that promote and support *etter access to afforda*le
healthy food +ithin the city. An e1ample of a policy that +ould help +ould *e to ha)e policies
that pro)ide fundin to local con)enience storeo+ners to e1pand their fresh food sections and
pro)ide ta1 *rea,s for rocery stores that aree to *uild in ur*an areas and to hire mostly local
residents. 'hese policies +ould help +ith the lo+erin of unemployment and increase the
socioeconomic status of the residences, +hich in turn +ould reduce the racial and ethnic
ine-ualities in health and food access.
Conclusion
"n conclusion, the food climate in the city of .etroit is headin in a direction that +ill
create a *etter food en)ironment for the population *y assistin them in their access to healthy
afforda*le food options. 'he prorams that are in place to create this en)ironment such as the
food carts, ur*an farminKariculture and satellite farmers mar,ets are all steppin stones to
creatin a future +here the people in the city of .etroit ha)e the option to *uy healthy
produce for a price that is competiti)e +ith the price of *uyin food at a fast food restaurant.
'he increase in these opportunities and community support +ill help to impro)e the health of
the population *y increasin the amount of healthy calories and fats that they consume
compared to the *ad calories and fat they used to consume *ecause it +as cheaper and more
readily a)aila*le. "n the future +ith continuin all of these prorams and adaptin to ne+
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
prorams and policies that miht arise the city of .etroit is headed do+n a path that could
lead other ur*an areas that are strulin +ith food access issues to loo, to them as a role
model of chane and success. Fa)in orani5ations parin +ith mem*ers of the community
allo+s for a support system to sho+ the community that it is possi*le to li)e a healthy
afforda*le lifestyle +ith fresh produce *y parta,in in different prorams that the community
offers. A fresh outloo, for the future means fresh produce and a healthy thri)in community
for the city of .etroit.
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Access to Fast Food Vs. Fresh Produce
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