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Friday, September 11, 2015

I'll miss the food deserts

Today, September 11, almost all Americans of voting age resurrect vivid memories of the past. Reflection on horrific events such as 9/11 give us an erie frozen in time aura. We remembers exactly what we were doing, where we were, and who we were with when the news of the collapsing towers in Manhattan or the shots in Dallas invaded our consciousness. Our world will never be our old world again. We cannot go home. As reflection deepens, grief gives way to nostalgia as we remember the artifacts and institutions of yesteryear. We smile fondly on the memories of steam powered passenger trains and bustling train stations, of Western Union telegrams and the quaint key punched utility bills. They were the fruits of ingenious and great ideas that graced the edifice of time, served their purpose and exited forevermore.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
It is perhaps fitting that today, September 11, we learn that another grand concept has exhausted its purpose. Most scientific progress is incremental. We can trace the metamorphosis from the dial telephone to today's smartest smart phones. Yes, they are marvels but in many ways the progress follows a predictable straight line. Then there are the unpredicted innovations, things such as communication satellites, Xerox, and penicillin . One gasps and utters, what will they think of next? I confess when I first heard of food deserts those were my exact sentiments. What will they think of next?
As surely as you will forever remember exactly what you were doing when you heard that Cecil the Lion had been killed you will forever mourn the passing of the food deserts. Mary Katharine Ham delivers the coup de gras at Hot Air. It not that food deserts do not exist. That is settled science. The point is you really shouldn't give a damn. The brutal truth is they are logical progeny of sloppy academic research and lazy journalism.
Conventional wisdom suggests that if you live in an area devoid of fresh, healthy food, you won’t eat well. These so-called food deserts, the logic goes, are a root cause of the obesity epidemic...
The study looked at over 1,000 Philadelphia residents who formerly lived in areas considered food deserts but have since seen grocery stores built within 1.5 miles of their residences. Six months after supermarkets were built, the researchers found only 26.7 percent of those who lived near one of the newly built grocery stores ended up using the grocery store as their main food source. Within that 26.7 percent there was no significant improvement in body-mass index or intake of fruits and vegetables.
The findings led the authors of the study to write that “this indicates that simply providing new food retail stores is insufficient to encourage the adoption of new stores as residents’ main food source.” Residents who didn’t adopt the new stores, it is assumed, continued to use the old, less-healthy alternative.
According to Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, six months may not be enough time to measure the effects of introducing new supermarkets to neighborhoods. But she notes that previous studies showed no evidence that expanding access to healthy food reduces obesity rates.
Bet you didn't see that one coming. Who knew that building more grocery stores wouldn't decrease obesity? It's a bit counterintuitive, a curve ball. Just as having a steady supply of locally grown, organic, sustainable, fruit flown in from Brazil all winter long is no guarantee of a slim, svelte population. Who knew?

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