Community Impact

Understanding America’s Rural and Urban Food Deserts

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There are over 6,500 food deserts in the U.S. These are places where economics and geography make it harder for people to access healthy, nutritious food. While the challenges for those in rural and urban food deserts may look different, their refrigerators often look the same.

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Decaying Fruits and Veggies

When the nearest supply of fruit or vegetables is a gas station, your options are limited, and the produce is likely of lower quality. 

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Processed Foods

The nearest place to buy food in a food desert is often a convenience store or gas station. Necessary nutrients for a balanced diet. If that’s all you have to eat, living an active, healthy life will be more challenging.

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Fast Food

While the economics of a food desert doesn’t support an entire grocery business, cheap, unhealthy fast food restaurants fill the gap by opening in small towns and underserved neighborhoods

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Empty Shelves

Underemployment and less convenient travel options make it harder to access food. 

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10.5 percent of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 20201

 

 

 

At Bayer, we envision a world without hunger and a future without disease. As a key stakeholder in the food and health systems, Bayer has an opportunity to make a difference in this landscape. 

 

Thanks to innovations in agriculture and technology, America grows or imports so much food we should all be able to eat like lions. Why, then, do so many across the country lack access to the nutritious fruits, vegetables, and protein they need? 

While hunger is the physical sensation of not eating enough, food insecurity is a broader economic and social problem. Food insecure households don’t have consistent access to food, which keeps them from leading active, healthy lifestyles.

A Matter of Distance

 

Homes in rural food deserts are more than ten miles from the nearest large grocery store. But it’s not just the distance that creates food insecurity. In a rural food desert, access to transportation is limited, and jobs often pay lower wages. 

These conditions create heartbreaking outcomes. Child hunger rates are higher in rural areas. And diabetes, heart disease and other diet-related illnesses are prevalent as well.   

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Large grocery stores are closer in urban food deserts, but transportation challenges and economics still make nutritious food hard to reach. People there must travel outside their neighborhood, past fast food restaurants and convenience stores, to find healthy options.  

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American Food Insecurity, Right Now

 

Food deserts are long-established challenges, but current events are deepening the hunger. The lingering effects of the pandemic, inflation, and war-induced supply chain disruptions are weakening American food security. 

Unhealthy Habits

According to a poll conducted by Bayer in the summer of 2022, 51% of Americans say they buy less healthy food than they used to

 

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Worried about Groceries

87% say they are extremely or moderately concerned about the rising prices of groceries

 

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Worried about Everything

90% say they are extremely or moderately concerned about inflation and increasing price of goods and services

 

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Hunger on the Rise

The number of children facing hunger in the United States rose during the pandemic — from more than 10 million children in 2019 to nearly 12 million in 20202

 

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What Can We Do?

 

At Bayer, we understand that much is out of our control. But proven attempts at addressing food security do exist. The federal government’s SNAP benefits program goes a long way in helping low-income households afford groceries. And non-profit food banks attempt to fill the remaining gap. 

 

Since 2010, Bayer’s America’s Farmers program has awarded over $65 million to non-profits, schools, and youth ag organizations across rural America. We often aim these grants at the root problems associated with food deserts. For example, one of these grants funded a mobile food bank in Grayson County, Kentucky.

 

Bayer also partners with Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, through the #HeresToTheFarmer campaign in conjunction with the Luke Bryan Farm Tour and Kroeger.

 

These are just a few examples of how Bayer Fund is making a difference. Each grant provided by Bayer Fund, Bayer’s philanthropic arm, goes toward programs that help solve some of the country’s — and world’s — biggest challenges. These issues include access to food and nutrition, STEM education, and health and wellness. 

 

While the problems leading to food deserts are complex, and no one organization or company can solve them alone, we can create a more resilient food system together. At Bayer, we play our part by creating biological and digital solutions to the challenges facing farmers and our communities.

 

 

 

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1 Data according to Feeding America about child hunger. Additional information available here: https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/child-hunger-facts#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20children%20facing,more%20likely%20to%20face%20hunger

 

2 Data according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additional information available here: https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-u-s/key-statistics-graphics/

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5 min read