Does Lubbock have food deserts? - FOX34 Lubbock

Does Lubbock have food deserts?

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Food deserts are typically found in low income neighborhoods and rural towns. Residents have limited access to healthy, fresh food, and have little or no form of reliable transportation. 

39 million Americans live in low-access communities when it comes to food. According to the USDA, in these communities at least a third of the population is more than a mile away from a supermarket or large grocery store in an urban area. The range extends to ten miles in rural areas. 

"Food is available, but it is not always accessible to people," David Weaver, CEO of the South Plains Food Bank, said. "They perhaps don't have transportation and I think that is the real issue around food deserts in Lubbock."

Dianna Thomas lives in east Lubbock. She's limited to one grocery store and said one trip can take several hours. She said having a more direct bus route would make it easier for her and many of her neighbors. 

"I would like to see a bus that would just go from this area Dunbar Manhattan and Chatman Hill area straight to the grocery store and back," said Thomas. "It doesn't have to be you know a continuous thing but at least two or three times a day."

Food deserts are formed based on different factors varying by region and history. 

"Sometimes it is stores closing big chains deciding that, that store is not profitable along with a lot of other important community resources," Andy Black with Baylor University's Texas Hunger Initiative, said. "Either leaving or just not being invested in that particular community."

Small towns, especially east of Lubbock, have food insecurity rates and poverty rates that are approaching 30 percent. Currently in Lubbock, food insecurity is around 15 to 16 percent. 

According to Feeding America every community and congressional district across the country has residents affected by food insecurity. When comparing the U.S. with developing countries, Lubbock Congressman Jodey Arrington said the country has an abundance of food and doesn't believe in the idea of food deserts. 

"A food desert as you describe may be 3 miles to the grocery store well goodness, I think that should be a food oasis, it's a blessing," said Arrington. "Now could we do better could, we have more resources that are more efficient for people to walk to a more convenient location or take their cars where they don't have to drive across town or get on the Loop? Maybe. But I just believe, while we could always do better, I think we are talking about a place from abundance."

The South Plains Food Bank has been fighting food insecurity for years with its day to day operations and its mobile food pantries in rural areas. 

"It is a means tested program where the families that are getting that food have a household income below a certain level," said Weaver. "That's one of the ways we are addressing it, but it is an issue that isn't going away anytime soon." 

Community Gardens in both neighborhoods and schools might not resolve the problem of food insecurity, but teaching children and families about growing their food can help combat it. 

"The idea is a if we grow more we can eat more local food that helps with food security," said Jessica Tullar Caroom, a member of the South Plains Hunger Solutions. "If we can support the gardens we have it inspires others, they want to become gardeners, they want to learn more about it." 

More than 47,000 hundred people are estimated to be food insecure in Lubbock County, according to Feeding America, which 16.2 percent of the population. This is above the state average of 15.4 percent. It estimates that more than 4 million Texans are food insecure. 

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