What is a Food Desert?

Have you ever heard the term "food desert" and wondered exactly what it means? Check out these 8 basic facts about food deserts and consider how you might take action to help.

  1. “Food deserts” are geographic areas where access to affordable, healthy food options (fruits and vegetables) is limited because grocery stores are too far away.

  2. Over 23 million people live in food deserts. It is estimated that nearly half of these individuals are low-income.

  3. Approximately 2.3 million people live in areas (mostly rural and low-income) that are more than 10 miles from a supermarket.

  4. The true number of food deserts may be underestimated because the North American Industry Classification System places small corner grocery stores in the same category as grocery stores like Whole Foods.

  5. Individuals living in food deserts tend to also have a hard time finding foods that are culturally relevant and that meet their dietary restrictions.

  6. You can find food deserts near you with the USDA’s new food desert locator map.

  7. People living in the poorest SES (social-economic status) areas have 2.5 times the exposure to fast-food restaurants as those living in more wealthy areas.

  8. People living in food deserts tend to get more of their meals from fast-food restaurants.


United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. “Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences.” United States Department of Agriculture, 2009.

“11 Facts About Food Deserts.” DoSomething.org, www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-food-deserts.