Discouraging Food Swamps

Date posted: Friday 03 June 2022

“Food swamp” is a new term to me. We’ve long heard about “food deserts,” places where fresh, healthy and nutritious food is seldom available and food choices very limited. Grocery stores have moved out of the area and residents are likely to get their food from places such as gas station minimarts. I visited such an area in Detroit while on an ELCA World Hunger event a few years ago and I know food deserts exist in rural areas as well as in metropolitan areas.


A current University of Minnesota study is looking at “food swamps” in North Minneapolis, places where food options abound but usually with unhealthy food. Convenient and cheap food is easy to come by but is filled with empty calories. It is not difficult to see (and already well documented) that food swamps are predictors of poor health and disease.


Perhaps you, too, have noticed how fast-food outlets tend to cluster in one area of a city or town. Seldom are there opportunities for healthier food choices in that same area. Studies have shown that, regardless of the level of food inequality, this food swamp effect persists; food swamps are not located only in low-income areas.


The causes are many – redlining, transportation inequalities and outdated zoning rules among them. A diversity of food options can and should be the answers. Neighborhoods coming together and asking that they can stay local and still find healthier food choices.


At a time when hunger persists even here in Minnesota, finding out more about the whys/hows/solutions to food swamps is more important than ever. Reading recently that there are eight hungry kids on the average full school bus has given me pause! Think about these issues as you drive around your community while on the way to a grocery store with options that others do not have.


Vernita Kennen

Incarnation, Shoreview


See: Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 22, 2022, Business Section, “Desirability or Availability?”


Read more of Vernita's "Addressing Hunger" blog posts.