With First Lady Michelle Obama in Chicago to address the city's food desert problem, a report [PDF] released this week shows that the amount of people without easy access to fresh, healthy food is down 40 percent over the last five years. Still, an estimated 384,000 Chicagoans -- mostly African-Americans, 124,000 of which are children -- live in food desert neighbourhoods.
There is no specific geographic definition of a food desert. In general, the designation focuses on the difficulty in obtaining access to fresh produce and other healthy foods by a concentrated mass of people. Usually that relates to the difficulty in finding transportation to a full-service supermarket.
The progress in Chicago is due in part to shift toward fresh produce at big box retailers like Wal-Mart, Walgreen Co., CVS Corp., Save-A-Lot, and Food 4 Less.
Chicago city administration, led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has long pledged to make fresh foods more accessible to all communities in the city. Based on this report, it looks to be working.