About Me

My photo
This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Friday, February 7, 2014

'Desert' Aisles -- By James Taranto, The Wall Street Journal

If you build it, they may not come to the produce section.

Poverty used to mean going hungry. These days--at least in the developed West, and especially in America--it means getting hungry, consuming loads of inexpensive carbohydrates, and becoming fat and unhealthy. It's progress of a sort, but those concerned with social uplift aren't wrong to see a problem here. But their assumptions about its cause and solution have been tested and found wanting.

As National Journal's Clara Ritger describes it:
With the obesity epidemic in full swing and millions of American [sic] living in neighborhoods where fruits and vegetables are hard to come by, the Obama administration thought it saw a solution: fund stores that will stock fresh, affordable produce in these deprived areas.
But now, three years and $500 million into the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative, there's a problem: A study suggests it's not working.
The idea behind what we wish the administration had the wit to call the Affordable Pear Act is that "food deserts" exist because of a market failure--because produce is in short supply. The experiment suggests the problem is more one of demand.

Ritger reports on a study in the February issue of Health Affairs. Researchers from Penn State and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine "studied two comparable neighborhoods in Philadelphia":
When a grocery store was opened in one Philadelphia food desert, 26.7 percent of residents made it their main grocery store and 51.4 percent indicated using it for any food shopping, the report found. But among the population that used the new supermarket, the researchers saw no significant improvement in BMI, fruit and vegetable intake, or perceptions of food accessibility, although there was a significant improvement in perception of accessibility to fruits and vegetables. . . .
The researchers compared the Philadelphia neighborhood that would soon receive a new supermarket to a similar community three miles away, hoping to avoid any crossover effect from the opening of the new store. They polled the two communities before and after the store opened to see the effect of the change.
The results "mirror findings in the U.K., where researchers created a similar comparison of two neighborhoods in Scotland and observed no net effect on fruit and vegetable intake," Ritger adds.

All of which suggests that the Affordable Pear Act rests on a backward assumption about cause and effect. It's not that most "food desert" denizens eat unhealthy food because grocers refuse to supply them with fruits and vegetables. Instead, grocers don't supply them with fruits and vegetables because the demand is insufficient.

To be sure, ObamaCare's architects didn't completely believe that, or they would not have imposed a "mandate" in the form of a tax on the uninsured. Applying the same logic to the obesity problem would point in the direction of a broccoli mandate.

As far as we know, no one is willing to go quite that far, though The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg did opine in 2012 that a broccoli mandate "doesn't sound that scary." Ritger blandly suggests "that access to healthy food needs to be paired with education about consumption." No more hot chocolate for you, Pajama Boy
#GetDrinking celery juice.

In at least one food desert, Palash Ghosh reports in the International Business Times, the prospect of an oasis was met with not just indifference but suspicion:
Trader Joe's, the privately held retail grocery chain, has cancelled plans to open a store in a poor neighborhood in the northeastern section of Portland, Ore., following "negative reactions" from the local community.
The Portland African American Leadership Forum (PAALF) objected to the proposed development partly because it feared that the new retail complex would eventually push up rental prices in the area and drive out the local black community. PAALF officials cited that they held no animosity toward Trader Joe's whatsoever but were concerned by the city government's history of displacing African-Americans from their homes
(Click link below to read more)
READ MORE Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Post a Comment