Saturday, March 15, 2014

Denver's Food Deserts: A Tour

A fellow commentor (Exceptionally Brash) looked up food deserts in her city, and it piqued my curiosity about food deserts in my hometown of Denver. The gray areas are "urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food."


The cartographers of the project evidently didn't think about taking the bus to the grocery store or that people who move to places without public transportation nearby know that they're going to need a car. Nor do they consider that some supermarkets deliver groceries.

See the L-shaped desert in the lower left corner? I see the vertical part of it every day from a bus that runs from early morning until past midnight. The area is mostly retail and industrial, along with a major highway, a river, an animal shelter, and a golf course--perfect places for a grocery store, right? Nevertheless, there are two supermarkets, several convenience stores, a bunch of modest-looking restaurants and a WalMart that sells groceries along the route just outside the "desert." There are a couple more supermarkets along the way if you're willing to go a few blocks east.

The horizontal bit looks like it's Mississippi Avenue. Google shows three supermarkets at the left end of the "desert" that shoppers can get to on the 11 bus. There's a Whole Foods just past the right end.

There's a major bus route through the middle of the little square food desert in the middle of the map. Jump on the 15, and you'll get to King Soopers and Safeway in a few minutes.

My best friend, a health and fitness enthusiast, used to live near the big food desert at the top of the map. I can't remember her ever complaining (and she likes to complain) about getting groceries, except for the long lines. Evidently, a lot of people managed to get there. Much of the food desert is along two interstates surrounded by industrial parks, an event complex, and a dog food factory. Even so, it's a large area with some neighborhoods and a golf course. But when I went to Mapquest and picked a spot in the middle (Colorado & Martin Luther King), and got directions to the nearest supermarket, it was less than three miles' drive, or a five-minute ride on the #2 bus. From the events complex, it was less than 10 minutes' drive to a Target or Walmart. That's not exactly a desert trip you need to pack provisions for.

My best friend and I once went to the desert in the middle left when she was hit with a craving for tamales. On North Federal, you can't turn around without seeing tamales for sale. We even passed a muffler shop that sold tamales. The restaurant we chose (from among many) was across the street from a butcher shop.

From the butcher shop, you can head east on 6th Avenue for a few miles, turn right, and go to a farmers' market (with actual farmers) that sells raw milk, pastured meat and eggs, fruit, vegetables, and so on. On certain Saturdays, you can buy some birds at the nearby chicken swap and have your own fresh eggs.

If we applied the "food desert" standards to driving commutes, Denver would have a "workplace desert." Not many people live within a couple of miles of work--the average driving commute here takes 27 minutes. And of course, it's typical to go to work more often than to the grocery store. Yet this isn't a problem needing a government solution--people old enough to have a job are expected to find a way to get to work. The same standard should apply to people old enough to buy their own groceries.

2 comments:

Lowcarb team member said...

Just to say Farmers Markets are great and towns, cities, villages etc are very fortunate if they have one.

All the best Jan

Lori Miller said...

Definitely.