Boston Globe Admits that Food Deserts 'aren't as common as the rhetoric suggests'

Peter Wilson
Conservatives have been highly skeptical from the beginning about the fixation of Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign on the elimination of "food deserts." For example, two years ago I wrote an article for AT, titled "Federal Anti-Obesity Initiative to Eliminate Food Deserts," which concludes, "you can't force people to buy healthy food." Today the Boston Globe published a startling editorial that reaches similar conclusions:

The studies found that, while poor neighborhoods indeed had more fast food restaurants than wealthier neighborhoods, they also had more large-scale supermarkets [my emphasis]. The authors of the studies, Helen Lee of the Public Policy Institute of California, and Roland Sturm of RAND, both said in telephone interviews that the findings indicate a much more complex challenge for policymakers fighting obesity.

As Lee noted, there are plenty of "crazy cheap" healthy items in supermarkets, such as bananas, carrots, and seasonal vegetables. "But you are dealing," she said, "with more nuanced issues like taste, like whether a low-income mother on limited funds will spend money on healthy produce she ends up throwing away because the kids don't like it. Cabbage is cheap but will the kids eat it?"

Good points, but did we need to wait for the RAND Corporation to tell us that it's a struggle to get kids to eat vegetables?

Conservatives have been highly skeptical from the beginning about the fixation of Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign on the elimination of "food deserts." For example, two years ago I wrote an article for AT, titled "Federal Anti-Obesity Initiative to Eliminate Food Deserts," which concludes, "you can't force people to buy healthy food." Today the Boston Globe published a startling editorial that reaches similar conclusions:

The studies found that, while poor neighborhoods indeed had more fast food restaurants than wealthier neighborhoods, they also had more large-scale supermarkets [my emphasis]. The authors of the studies, Helen Lee of the Public Policy Institute of California, and Roland Sturm of RAND, both said in telephone interviews that the findings indicate a much more complex challenge for policymakers fighting obesity.

As Lee noted, there are plenty of "crazy cheap" healthy items in supermarkets, such as bananas, carrots, and seasonal vegetables. "But you are dealing," she said, "with more nuanced issues like taste, like whether a low-income mother on limited funds will spend money on healthy produce she ends up throwing away because the kids don't like it. Cabbage is cheap but will the kids eat it?"

Good points, but did we need to wait for the RAND Corporation to tell us that it's a struggle to get kids to eat vegetables?