May 9, 2011

Food Desert Locator, Food Atlas and food spendings


A question for my American readers: do you have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables?

USDA food desert locator
[ via fastcodesign ]

Food Desert Locator is a useful tool from the USDA that gives a very clear visual picture of "food deserts" in the USA, defined as low-income areas with poor access to a supermarket or large grocery stores that stock affordable and nutritious food. Click on the "food desert" pink tracts in the interactive infographic and a box will pop up showing information including about the county, its population, number and percentage of people/children with low access to healthy food. People who live in such areas
are said to be more likely to feed themselves and their children unhealthy and fast foods which are more readily available.

This article on the USDA website has lots of interesting information about food deserts and good links: Access to affordable, nutritious food is limited in "food deserts"

The Food Desert Locator tool is an initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move program aimed at fighting the childhood obesity epidemic. Another is the USDA Economic Research Service's Food Atlas. This is an interactive tool that maps out each community's "food environment". You can create visual maps of 168 "food environment factors" in three broad categories:
1. food choices (example, number of restaurants, expenditure on fast food, food taxes);
2. health and well-being (eg physical activity leve, diabetes rates);
3. community characteristics (eg demographics, income and poverty)
From these, you can see how these factors may influence or impact on a population's food choices.

According to the US Department of Labor, consumers spent an average of $6,372, or 12.99 percent, of their take-home pay on food. I watched this video on how much people spend on food and drinks a few weeks ago. It seems appropriate for this post.

Eat, Drink and Be Thrifty: Spending on Food and Dining from on YouTube

The information for the video comes from data from users of, a free website that helps people manage their money and budget. It allows users to consolidate their financial accounts in one place and automatically categorizes spendings so they can see where their money goes. It has over four million users. (this is not a sponsored post LOL, just thought it might be of use to someone out there!)

Also from Mint, an article on how to save money and cut expenditures on food without compromising culinary pleasure. There are a lot of nice links there. Among the advice: buy in bulk, use leftovers creatively, eat less meat, DIY. These are some things I practice, not always to save money though, sometimes it's just for fun or to eat a little more healthily (to balance out the junk I eat!). One interesting tip from Mint that I'd like to try: learn kitchen first aid, or creatively fixing cooking disasters. The link is to a Mint article "Kitchen 911". What should you do with oversalted dishes, burnt meat, lumpy sauce or deflated muffins? Reinvent, recycle, be creative. Turn oh oh's into oh yes'es!

Happy cooking and eating.

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by liberal sprinkles