500K+ Houstonians live in ’food deserts’ with little to no access to healthy food and the problem has worsened due to COVID-19

Stronger Houston: Food deserts in Houston area a widening problem amid pandemic
Stronger Houston: Food deserts in Houston area a widening problem amid pandemic

HOUSTON – A quick stop at a neighborhood grocery store for a forgotten ingredient or a trip to load up on meals for the week is something many of us do regularly. But unfortunately, across Houston, access to fresh food doesn’t come as easily for all and it impacts lives in more ways than one.

Many people may have heard of “food insecurity” which refers to not having money for regular nutritious meals. Food deserts are areas where stores with healthy food options don’t even exist. These issues are often connected and the solutions are not easy to come by. Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold over the region, it’s gotten even more challenging.

“You need healthy foods, healthy affordable food within a walking distance or within close proximity to people’s homes so they can have healthy foods and a healthy lifestyle and end up living longer,” explained Frederick Goodall, the Assistant Director of Communications for BakerRipley House.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 exposes major disparities between neighboring Houston-area communities — Gulfton and Bellaire

Since the pandemic began, BakerRipley House has hosted drive-thru food distributions every week, several times a week. Sometimes they see 300 to 500 people a day. Other times, that number has been closer to 1,000.

“Food deserts are a big problem here in Houston and considering the size of our city and diversity everyone talks about, it’s actually very sad (that) many communities don’t have a single grocery store they can go to,” added Goodall.

“A while ago, I lived near San Felipe and Voss and there were three grocery stores within a block of my house and you come to different areas of town and there are zero grocery stores. This really affects the quality of life, your health, and all aspects of your community,” said Goodall.

A food desert is an area where at least a third of the population lives more than a mile away from a supermarket for urban areas and greater than 10 miles away for rural areas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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