If you live in Los Angeles, you may sometimes feel like you're in a food desert. It is often maddeningly hot. You may find yourself bereft of food trucks, or good ones at any rate. You may be reading this right now from the overheating concrete of a Denny's parking lot in Monrovia. But you are not in a real food desert, as pissed off and as hungry as you may be. A food desert, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is an area where people do not have easy access to affordable, healthful food. Which is not, as much as it may seem sometimes, where you likely are right now. It's also a lovely term that, as we've noted before, sounds more like a Ben Marcus short story than a USDA category.
A food desert, more specifically, is "a low-income census tract where either a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store." According to Food Safety News, that would be about 10% of 65,000 census tracts, which are home to 13.5 million people.
Not only has the USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) developed this category for us, but yesterday they launched this handy Food Desert Locator. Just in case you want to map that Denny's parking lot. Where are the nearest food deserts? You might be surprised. San Bernardino. San Diego. Santa Barbara. Somebody should probably tell Oprah about that last one, so she can buy somebody else a car. A supermarket.