Artbound

Artbound

Start watching
Fine Cut

Fine Cut

Start watching
SoCal Wanderer

SoCal Wanderer

Start watching
a large damn with graffiti of a woman with a hammer on it, mountains in the background

Earth Focus Presents

Start watching
Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Professor T

Professor T (Belgium)

Start watching
Emma

Emma

Start watching
Guilt

Guilt

Start watching
Line of Separation Key Art.

Line of Separation

Start watching
Us

Us

Start watching
The Latino Experience

The Latino Experience

Start watching
Key Art of "Summer of Rockets" featuring Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens.

Summer of Rockets

Start watching
Death in Paradise Series 10

Death in Paradise

Start watching
millionaire still

KCET Must See Movies

Start watching
Independent Lens

Independent Lens

Start watching
Tending Nature
New Special Airing Nov. 14

Tending Nature

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Discover all the ways you can make a difference.
Support Icon
The Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams are here to help.

Where Are L.A.'s Food Deserts?

Support Provided By
joshua1-600
Joshua Tree | Photo: atomische/Flickr/Creative Commons License

When stats are released about the nation's ever-worsening health crisis and the growing rates of obesity and diabetes, it's easy to cast blame in the direction of the victims.

How can these people be so bad to their bodies? How can they be so ignorant when we live in a country with so much readily-available information about health, in a city that's chock-full of grocery stores, in an era that sees new farmers' markets sprouting up every other week? It seems as if any excuses a person has for eating poorly (too much work to get done, don't know how to cook, too expensive, etc.) are just disguises for laziness.

But if any of those thoughts go through your mind when you read a health-related stat, odds are very good you don't live in one of the city's many "food deserts."

Food desert is a term that, according to the Wikipedia page on the subject, was coined during the mid-1990s in the U.K. What was happening during that time period was people were beginning to pack up their belongings from the urban centers and move out into the suburbs. (It was an echo of the American exodus from metropolitan areas following World War II.) And one of the results of fewer people living in cities was that grocery stores began to shut down -- if there are no customers, there are no stores -- leaving large numbers of folks without easy access to fresh foods. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, they'd have to travel further and further away from their home until, at some point, it simply became unreasonable to do so, causing their diets to suffer in the process.

Since that time, the definition's expanded to include more than simply physical access to a supermarket. A food desert can mean an area that's physically without one, or it can mean that the area has a lack of:

(1) Financial access, meaning the stores in the area are priced out of what the average resident can afford;
(2) "Mental attitude," meaning the consumer simply doesn't have the knowledge of what's good or bad for them.

Food deserts, thusly, can have plenty of places to literally obtain food. But the only food is from McDonald's, Burger King, Jack-in-the-Box; those mom-and-pop shops that have nothing but beer, potato chips and cheap buckets of ice cream; and bars. All are options to keep a person from keeling over and dying (unlike, say, the lack of food options in the Mojave Desert which, yes, technically is also a food desert), but there's also a huge lack of being able to obtain the necessary ingredients that compose a healthy diet.

Which brings us to L.A.

Recently, the USDA put together a searchable map of the country's various food deserts. This is what happens when you enter "Los Angeles, CA" into it:

lafooddesert-600

In this map, green is not good: Those are the city's food deserts.

As you'd expect, they're nonexistent in the "better" areas of the city (the west side, West Hollywood, Silver Lake, and Los Feliz are all green-less), while the poorer areas (Inglewood, Compton, Bell, parts of SGV) have plenty of green hanging around. And those areas are also, unsurprisingly, where the county's obesity rates seem to spike.

Gosh, who would have guessed that it's harder to maintain a healthy diet in places where healthy foods are hard to get?

So maybe next time stats are released about the state of our country's health, the question shouldn't be how they can allow this to happen to themselves, but instead how we can allow this to happen in our own backyards.

Eat better by following KCET Food on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Support Provided By
Read More
A close-up photo of goat birria tacos on a paper plate. The birria taco is smothered in a orange-red sauce. The entire dish is topped with pickled red onions and green herbs, possibly cilantro or parsley.

Birria and Iced Coffee: 6 Compton Spots for Good Eats and Health

As one of the oldest cities in Los Angeles, Compton is the true geographic epicenter of Los Angeles County, with community gems powered by its residents. Compton native and owner of Compton Health Bar, Dani Solorio, shares her favorite spots for food, agriculture and culture.
Various Jack Skellington heads are on propped up on black rods in a display at the Academy Museum. The face in the forefront holds a surprised expression.

11 Memorably Morbid Outings in SoCal

So whether you're looking for some frightful fun, seeking to delve into some dreadful delusions or simply trying to tread on some unhallowed ground, here are 11 guides that'll send you on an journey through L.A.'s most memorably morbid and creatively creeptastic adventures — none of which are limited to just October.
A view of a large domed structure overlooking a cityscape.

10 Best Ways to Explore Los Feliz, According to a 45-Year Insider

When longtime taco shack Yuca's first set up shop in Los Feliz in 1976, co-owner Dora Herrera quickly became part of the original group of business owners working to attract more interest in Los Feliz. Since then Herrera has fell in love with become an involved and integral member of the Los Feliz community. Here are the ten best ways to get to explore Los Feliz, according to Herrera.