Food Desert: An Education Indeed

   By JerriAnn  Oct 22, 2011

I am working with the Allstate Foundation and the local YWCA on a campaign called the Purple Purse. was created to get people talking about domestic violence, particularly about financial abuse. Financial abuse is the using of finances as a tool of power and control. It happens as often as domestic abuse and is the number one reason victims remain in relationships with their abusers.

Last Wednesday I spent the day at the YWCA in Birmingham and visited the campus in Woodlawn, just outside of Birmingham.  I was amazed at the benefits offered by the YW at both locations.  I also learned that there is a location in St. Clair County Alabama as well.  The Purple Purse Campaign started October 13th when we hosted a Tweet Up at the Birmingham YW location.  We have two domestic violence survivors who will spoke at the event.  One of the speakers was local to Birmingham and the other was Ella Nolan, a recent participant and star on the Bachelor Pad 2. 

I felt it was best if I took the time to learn as much as possible about the YW before our event and to assist me in spreading the good word about the services offered by the YW’s.  I could yap on forever about the services that I learned about but instead, I felt almost like a foreigner in my own town while touring the facility in Woodlawn.  The individuals guiding me through the facility and the grounds mentioned that the area was a “Food Desert”.  That’s a term that I had I never heard of.  I even had to email one of the individuals the next morning to get the terminology again so I could do some research. 

So, I ask you, are you familiar with the idea of a “food desert”?

A “food desert” is defined as any area in the industrialized world where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain. It is prevalent in rural as well as urban areas and is most prevalent in low-socioeconomic minority communities, and is associated with a variety of diet-related health problems according to Wikipedia.    

Now, I live in an area where the main method of transportation is an automobile and although we don’t have access to affordable food within walking distance, we can easily get food.  It never occurred to me that individuals who live within walking distance of stores could be deprived of healthy, affordable food.  However, a quick tour of the facility left me in awe of how the residents of this area manage to retrieve suitable food when they don’t have any method of getting to and from a decent store.  The only alternative they have is to purchase at convenience stores which not only don’t carry the healthiest of foods, but also are generally much more expensive in nature than large stores such as Wal-Mart. 

One of the best parts of having the YW located in that area is the fact that the administrative staff does have the ability to shop for food for these families.  Moreover, the families have a small area where they have planted small gardens and maintain those to grow a few fresh foods for themselves. 

I am curious how many of you have ever heard the terminology and/or lived in an area which is categorized as a “food dessert”.  Moreover, if you lived in that situation, how did you find a way to make sure your family had nutritionally sound foods?  I hope to tell you more about the idea of the Purple Purse in the coming weeks as well as how the Purple Purse campaign deserves your support.  You can follow the #purplepurse on twitter as well as the #endDV, the twitter account for the Birmingham YW which is @YWCentralAL. 

The Purple Purse Tweet Ups were held in seven cities during the second week of October as the website kicked off.  Those seven cities are Birmingham, Tucson, Manhattan, Chicago, Seattle, Cincinnati, El Paso and Cleveland. The Allstate Foundation donated $100 for each of the first 100 guests at each location to Domestic Violence Awareness. 


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