Mary Landers’ story, Savannah examines making healthy food an easier choice, in the Jan. 6 Savannah Morning News describes a study commissioned by the Healthy Savannah Initiative, which documents the problem of food deserts in Savannah.
Landers describes the study’s methodology, which uses a variety of data sources “to come up with a block-by-block analysis of how convenient it is to choose fresh and healthy over fatty and fast. The group calculated a ‘food balance’ score for each city block by dividing the distance from it to any mainstream food provider (such as Kroger) by the distance to any fringe food venue (such as McDonald’s).”
The story notes that lack of healthy food options is not exlusive to low income, inner city neighborhoods:
Kathryn Martin, chair of Healthy Savannah, knows that from first-hand experience. She’s lived in Southbridge since she moved to Savannah six years ago. “Southbridge is considered affluent, but when I moved there the closest place to access healthy food was 7 miles away in Pooler,” said Martin, a former administrator of the Chatham County Health Department who now is the Medical College of Georgia assistant dean for Southeast Georgia campus. “Officially, I was in a food desert.”
The difference, of course, between affluent communities such as Southbridge and some other neighborhoods is that nearly everyone in Southbridge has access to a car (sometimes more than one car) and thus easy access to healthy food. In other parts of Savannah, where residents depend on public transportation to travel outside their neighborhoods, the food that’s easy to find is often not the healthiest choice. And the study addresses this in one of its recommendations:
Identify traffic routes, especially pedestrian pathways, to mainstream food venues and identify ways to shorten and improve those routes. The dot maps showing the locations of mainstream and fringe food venues will aid in prioritizing where to start on this task.
The study, “A New Day in the Garden: A Food Desert and Food Balance Analysis in Savannah, Georgia,” can be downloaded here.