Study Provides Insight on Residents of Rural Food Deserts
Ohio -- "Food deserts" are normally thought of as low-income,
blighted urban neighborhoods with little access to fresh, reasonably priced
fruits and vegetables.
areas, despite their wide-open spaces and fertile farmland, can be food
Ohio State University Extension community development specialist worked with
two student interns to examine this seeming paradox to discover more about
people who live in rural food deserts and how they access fresh produce.
to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, rural residents who live at least 10
miles away from a grocery store live in a food desert, said Tom Blaine.
in our study lived an average of 11 miles from a grocery store," Blaine
said. "Typically in more populated areas, you have a grocery store within
a half-mile or mile.
most people in Ohio, 11 miles from a grocery store would be a very long way.”
22-mile round trip equates to an average transportation expense of $735 a year,
study involved phone interviews with 90 residents along the border of Wayne and
Holmes counties to determine how they acquire, produce and consume fresh fruits
and vegetables and to gather demographic information. For the study, Blaine led
a brother-and-sister team, Sarah and Michael Pinkham, who were involved in the
Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s Ohio Research Internship
Program (ORIP) during summer 2012. The idea for the study originated with
OARDC’s Parwinder Grewal, a professor of entomology who directs the summer ORIP
lack of opportunity to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in rural areas can be an
important barrier to a healthy diet, just as it is in the city,” Blaine said. “Many
of us might assume that there is a lot of produce out there, but that’s not
agricultural production is not fresh produce, it’s grain and livestock. So we
wanted to study these folks who live in rural areas more closely to see how they
operate, and what steps they take in gaining fresh fruit and vegetables.”
the study’s findings:
respondents, 74 percent, had a garden that allowed them to grow their own fresh
produce. In all, 28 percent of the households grew at least one-third of their
produce, and 43 percent grew at least one-quarter of the produce they consumed.
elderly were the least likely to have a garden and grow their own produce.
"Many said they had gardened all their lives, but now their health doesn't
permit it," Blaine said. "They just don't have the mobility or
endurance to get out and work in the garden." Senior citizens also may
have more challenges driving to the grocery store, he said, which presents an
additional disadvantage to getting access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
- High-income households also were less likely to have a garden. Blaine suspects
that these residents work longer hours than average, preventing them from
having time to garden.
- People who eat more produce are more likely to have their own garden.
with more people are more likely to have a garden.
only do larger families need more food in the house, but they have additional
labor to keep the garden up," Blaine said.
said he hopes the findings of this study will raise awareness of rural food
deserts and encourage more people to do gardening.
a double-winner for people," he said. "When you get out and garden, you're
exercising, you're moving. It's a lot healthier than sitting around the house.
you're producing something that's healthy to eat. If you can substitute a
freshly grown green pepper or tomato for potato chips or doughnuts, you'll be
and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms, respectively, of Ohio
State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
more about ORIP at OARDC, see http://oardc.osu.edu/orip/.