Major food retailers vow to increase nutritional fareSeveral grocery retailers, like Cub, Walmart and Walgreens, are promising to offer more locations with healthy food in Wisconsin, and across the nation.
By: Shamane Mills, Wisconsin Public Radio , Superior Telegram
Several grocery retailers, like Cub, Walmart and Walgreens, are promising to offer more locations with healthy food in Wisconsin, and across the nation. It’s part of First Lady Michelle Obama's effort to curb childhood obesity.
The new or relocated stores are meant to be a food oasis in what's are known as food deserts. The USDA defines this as low income areas where a third of the population is far from a grocery store. In rural areas, that's 10 miles, while in urban settings, one mile.
In Wisconsin, food deserts are scattered, everywhere from Milwaukee to Langlade County. The announcement that major retailers will expand or relocate into areas with low food access may help. But Steve Ventura, a UW researcher studying food systems in Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit, says it’s a complex issue. Ventura is a professor of environmental studies at UW Madison working with the urban farm and food center in Milwaukee known as Growing Power.
"If you think … of the Wisconsin context, it makes lots of sense to have carrots and onions and potatoes produced in the central sands 100 miles from Milwaukee and 150 miles from Chicago rather than having them come from Idaho or California or more farther away areas,” he says.
And Ventura says the kind of food matters, too.
"One of things that has become very clear in our work, is food that's culturally relevant,” he says. “Food that people are accustomed to eating because of their backgrounds and cultural orientation. Food that's appealing has to be part of the mix"
What's offered in an area can determine what eaten. But a study this month in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that increased access to grocery stores didn't necessarily mean people ate more fruits and vegetables, especially when fast food outlets were available.