Friday, July 29, 2011

2011-07-29 "Three south Vallejo neighborhoods designated 'food deserts'" by Rachel Raskin-Zrihen from "Vallejo Times-Herald" newspaper
Source: USDA's Food Desert Locator
There are three areas in Solano County designated as "food deserts" by the federal government. All are along the south Vallejo waterfront.
Food deserts are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as "low-income census tracts where a substantial number or share of residents have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store."
Vallejo's food deserts comprise some 6,500 residents, nearly half of whom are low-income. This is the first time these criteria have been measured and the information comes from 2000 census data, USDA spokeswoman Shelly Ver Ploeg said. Next year's will be based on more recent figures, she said.
Low access to a healthy food retail outlet is defined as being more than 1 mile from a supermarket or large grocery store in urban areas and more than 10 miles in rural areas.
"To qualify as low-income, census tracts must meet the Treasury Department's New Markets Tax Credit program eligibility criteria," the USDA website explains. To qualify as a food desert tract, at least 33 percent of the tract's population or a minimum of 500 people there must have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store, it says.
Roughly 75 percent of these food deserts are in urban areas, where an estimated 13.5 million people live more than a mile from a healthy food source, the site notes.
Wal-Mart, Inc. last week announced measures to address the food desert phenomenon nationwide, but it is unclear if anything is planned for Vallejo.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. issued a press release last week saying corporate officials plan to address this issue nationally by opening some 300 stores in these areas by 2016, though a corporate spokeswoman said "there is nothing to report" regarding any plans in Vallejo. The assistant manager of the American Canyon store -- the closest one to Vallejo -- said he has no knowledge about the company's plans.
More than 40,000 will work in these new stores, the Wal-Mart announcement notes.
These stores will provide access to groceries for more than 800,000 people living in food deserts, it says. Wal-Mart officials made the announcement at the White House last week with First Lady Michelle Obama. The program is part of a push announced in January as part of the First Lady's Partnership for a Healthier America.

Vallejo's 'food desert' areas -
Vallejo's three "food deserts" are all along the south Vallejo waterfront. According to the USDA's food desert locator maps:

1. The first "food desert" is bordered by Interstate 80 and the waterfront, and:
* Contains 3,102 residents, all more than 1 mile from a large grocery store or supermarket.
* Of those, 1,005 or (32.4 percent) are low income.
* Nearly 790, or more than 25 percent, are under age 18.
* More than 390, or about 10 percent, are 65 and older.
* About 10 percent, or 127 of this area's households own no vehicle.

2. The second "food desert" is directly north of the first, also bordered by I-80 and I-780 on the east and the waterfront to the west, and:
* Has some 3,261 residents with low access.
* About 48 percent or 1,566 of them are children.
* Some 333 are seniors.
* More than 18 percent -- 205 households -- have no vehicle.

3. The third "food desert" is north of the second -- bordered by the water on the west, Sutter Street to the east and Florida Street to the north -- and:
* Has 3,261 residents, more than 40 percent, or 1,266 of whom have low access to a large grocery store.
* About 23 percent, or 712, are low income.
* More than 320 are children.
* More than 200 are seniors
* Some 182 households, or 12.5 percent, have no vehicle.

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