| The Monroe News
An area is considered to be a food desert if the people do not have access to AFFORDABLE nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables and meat. Food deserts are most always located in areas of high poverty rates. One may think that Monroe does not have any food deserts due to the abundance of grocery stores available. But let’s look at this a little closer.
Let’s go down to the east side of Monroe. First, let’s just say that the local store that sells alcohol, lottery tickets, tobacco products, junk food (and drugs in the parking lot) does not provide access to nutritional food at aﬀordable prices.
Kroger is just 1.3 miles away so the east side can’t possibly be a food desert. People in poverty can take their SNAP cards (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and go to Kroger.
Let’s just take a look at that. Mom has three kids and no car. Many people in poverty have no car. So she has no way to get to Kroger with her three kids. The bus will cost $8. The number of bags she is allowed to take on the bus is limited. Even if she could carry more, she is only allowed to bring enough food for a couple days on the bus.
So what is this young mom forced to do? Take her kids and go into that liquor store and buy whatever junk food or processed food she can find for them because there is very little, if any, healthy food to be had there. And her SNAP card will be charged almost double the price it would have been charged at Kroger.
This is not healthy nutritional aﬀordable food. This is what she has access to. This mom lives in a food desert. The east side is not the only food desert in Monroe; aﬀordable nutritious food may not be available for other areas like Greenwood, senior high rises, etc.
The first thing I noticed as a nurse volunteering at Oaks is the number of people with hypertension. Then I noticed how many people were on medications for high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes and how many people have heart disease. The type of carbohydrates one eats can greatly aﬀect developing type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and dairy. Limiting added sugars, sodium and fat is not only a treatment for type 2 diabetes but also a prevention of type 2 diabetes. This type of diet is not available at the local liquor store. In fact the diet available at the local liquor store is the antithesis of a healthy diet.
Some children in this community are living on Kool-Aid and Ramen noodles. Diets like this have caused a dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes and obesity in children. Years ago children with diabetes were almost always type 1, and type 2 diabetes was a disease of adults. Recently more and more children have been developing type 2 diabetes with dramatic increases in African American, Hispanic and Native American children while only 0.6 percent increase in Caucasian children. Why the disparity? Poverty. Many more non-Caucasian children are living in poverty.
Opening the free clinic at Oaks has made us realize just how much lack of access to aﬀord nutritious food is adversely aﬀecting people’s health. Screening for and treating things like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are wonderful but it is time to start working on prevention. To this end, Oaks of Righteousness next month will be opening Oaks Village Market in the old store on East Fourth Street. It will provide aﬀordable and nutritious food in a clean and safe environment with delivery to other food deserts in the community.
But beyond providing food, the Village Market will provide education on things like cooking, basic nutrition and exercise. March will bring an oasis to the desert!
Sandy Libstorﬀ lives in Monroe and is a volunteer nurse at Oaks of Righteousness. She can be reached at slibstorﬀ@comcast.net.