This is part 1 of a three part series on the impact of the 2010 Census for Baltimore City’s food deserts, retail, and where we live.
Dustin Cable at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service color coded individuals’ ethnicity and dot placed them on a Racial Dot Map. There are over 308,745,538 dots on that map. I found it beautiful and interesting to see where we all live, especially in Baltimore. I was intrigued to see how the map related to the food desserts.
Last week my colleague Phillip Westry told us about the food deserts that exist in Baltimore City. Questions arouse from his article such as; Why do densely populated neighborhoods, comparatively Penn North, Druid Heights, Sandtown-Wincester, not have access to healthy food? Can we base a person’s life expectancy on where they live? Why do we have 68% of our population overweight and obese?
Data that tells us where we live is just data until you enter into other equations, such as food deserts. When you look at the map you can see how the dots interrelate with each other. There are densely populated areas in which mostly African Americans live. Some of the neighborhoods are, Penn North/Reservoir Hill, Upton/Druid Heights, Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park, and Greater Rosemont. The areas that are mostly populated by Caucasians are, Hampden, Medfield, Canton, Guilford, Roland Park and Remington. According to the Baltimore City Health Department Sandtown-Windchester, Harlem Park and Greater Rosemount possess some of the lowest life expectancy, additionally they are located in a food desert. Could their short life spans be caused by lack of proper nutrition?
The Health Department has assisted neighborhoods that are located in a food desert by offering a virtual supermarket; however I would believe that a large demand would equal a large food distributor rushing to meet the neighborhoods’ needs. Not having access to healthy food can be a contributing factor to being both obese and having a low life expectancy, yet we must factor in a neighborhood’s walkabilty, crime, and other influences. Baltimore’s neighborhoods have a rich interwoven history. Many people fought for everyone to have a quality of life no matter their income or race; and one characteristic of quality of life is equal access to food.
By Phillip Westry
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Center of a Livable Future define a food desert as an area where the distance to a supermarket is more than ¼ mile, the median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, and over 40% of households have no vehicle available.
All of the statistics aside, living in a food desert is not only inconvenient, but it can be bad for your health. In food deserts the most convenient foods come from fast food establishments and convenience stores. Studies have shown that people who live in food deserts have increased accessibility to low quality, high-fat foods. In Baltimore City food deserts, it’s easier to get Chinese food, fried chicken, a handle of gin or potato chips than it is to get an apple, orange, low-fat milk or kale. In Baltimore City, 68% of the population is either overweight or obese, and nearly 36% of the population has high blood pressure.
East Baltimore Midway is no longer considered a food desert with the opening of Apples and Oranges Fresh Market in March. Owners Erich and his wife Michele Speaks-March, have deep roots in East Baltimore. Erich March is the Vice President of March Funeral Homes, which has served the community for more than 50 years. The couple decided that East Baltimore needed a place to buy health food. In an interview with WBAL Erich March explained, “The community has been crying for a supermarket. I went to the big supermarket chains, and they weren’t interested in coming into our community, so we decided if anybody’s going to do it, we have to do it ourselves.” Apples & Oranges Market is a 4,800-square-foot, supermarket located between the Oliver and Darley Park neighborhoods at the corner of East North Avenue and Broadway.
In March 2010, the Baltimore City Health Department launched its Virtual Supermarket Project. The program allows residents living in and around East Baltimore and the Washington Village neighborhood the ability to order groceries from local retailers online. Resident can use free computers at the Enoch Pratt Free Library System to shop for grocery on Santoni’s Supermarket.
For more information about the Virtual Supermarket Program:
Check the Map to see if you live in a food desert: