Imagine you find yourself in a “food desert” in the middle of Philadelphia.
To a native, that might mean you are crawling through parched urban blocks toward a fantastic mirage, where one of the city’s storied cheesesteaks shimmers on a counter, grilled up with sizzle and steam by a guy named Pat, or maybe Geno.
Nutritionists see a different kind of desert in liberty’s birthplace, a city that has become the fattest and poorest in America. They define food deserts as areas, both rural and urban, where residents have difficulty finding easy access to affordable, nutritious food. Skeptics say such broccoli-forsaken places exist mostly in theory, and the cold reality is that consumers will find a way to buy what they want.
Philly’s city government hopes to prove the cynics wrong, and is investing nearly a million dollars in an effort to bring fruits and vegetables to small neighborhood stores.
As the Washington Post reports: “The city has recruited 632 corner stores . . . to its Get Healthy Philly initiative. Of those, 122 have gotten more intensive support, been supplied with new fridges to store produce and connected with wholesalers from whom they can buy at lower prices. It is also working with schools to improve nutrition and helping neighborhoods launch farmers markets, a multifaceted approach officials hope will improve public health.”
“When people are short a carrot, they can come to the convenience store,” one corner grocer suggested, hopefully.
Meanwhile, in a kingdom far away, they are trying a different approach. Denmark, the first country in the world to ban transfats, last year also became the first to impose a “fat tax” on dietary items that imperil the nation’s relatively low obesity rate. A half pound of butter and a pound of cheese both jumped the equivalent of a half dollar. Even organic milk had a sudden encounter with the tax man.
Denmark also imposes a substantial tax on sugar, prompting conspiracy theorists to wonder if there might in fact be a plan to drive all intricately-iced, cinnamon-powdered danish out of Denmark.
Take note, Philadelphia Cream Cheese.