EUGENE, Ore. - When you think of a desert, the term barren may come to mind. If you are traveling more than a mile for groceries, you might be living in what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls a "Food Desert."
"There might not be a lack of food. A person isn't necessarily going hungry, but they are certainly suffering from a lack of access to affordable, healthful, nutritious food," said Laurie Treager, Executive Director of the Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth.
Areas like the Gateway Neighborhood in Springfield are perfect examples locations with limited access to grocery stores. The Whiteaker Neighborhood, however, has several grocery stores, but is still considered part of a "Food Desert."
Julie Marie, a resident in the Whiteaker Neighborhood, lives near 3 different locations that offer healthy food, one of which is the Red Barn Natural Grocery store. Unfortunately, small stores like the Red Barn are not always practical for everyone.
"I'm lucky that I'm not economically challenged, so maybe if I couldn't afford to shop at small natural food stores I would have more of a problem," Marie said.
And that is really the key: "Food Deserts" are determined by access to larger grocery stores and affordable, nutritious foods. When access is limited, it can lead to problems related to more than just travel.
"Diet plays a huge roll in all kinds of deseases and conditions, obesity being one and one of the most critical," Treager told KVAL News. "So the kinds of food people have access to and the affordability plays into the obesity epidemic very directly."
Organizations like LCHAY are working towards providing more options that work for everyone through healthier options at places like corner stores.
"Let's make sure we can have our basic human needs met and maintain our health in a smaller, more human scale radius, rather than let's think about traveling 2 or more miles away from our home to take care of something as fundamental as getting a gallon of milk," Treager said.