If you live in a populated area, chances are you don’t know what a food desert is. Most people assume that I live in a big city due to my profession, however the complete and polar opposite is the truth. I live in a very rural area where there are more coyotes and mountain lions than human neighbors. It’s a 25 mile drive (one way) to the closest grocery store, doctor, clothing store…anything. There are 5 miles of dirt roads between my house and the main hwy that runs through our town. I live in Arizona, in the middle of nowhere, and I’m not only living IN a desert, but a literal food desert.
So…what is a food desert? The USDA’s definition of a food desert is: “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.”
Just to give you an idea of how long of a journey it is to find fresh foods, I took some pictures along my drive to the store yesterday. (Don’t worry, I was the passenger, not driving and taking pictures!) Can you imagine having to drive 50 miles round trip through this desert terrain just to get dinner, fruits, vegetables, milk…anything? Because it’s such a long journey into town I try to keep my shopping trips at once a week, but the climate I live in makes it hard to keep fruits and veggies fresh for even a one week span. After going on a weight loss journey last year and really starting to care about my health and the health of my family, I started getting more and more bothered by how far it is to just have healthy food. There are a number of gas stations throughout the 25 miles that offer options like fried chicken and pizza…but come on guys…that’s not even really food! The ‘food’ options that I have without a long drive are empty calories, completely void of nutrition for my family.
So, what else is a mom to do besides take things into her own hands? I have over an acre of property and decided that since there is no access to fresh foods, I will just grow them myself. I have a variety of foods in various stages of growth and I can not wait for my first harvest…it will be such a sweet success (literally)! Our crops for this year include: pumpkin, honeydew, canteloupe, cucumber, strawberries, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, habaneros, banana peppers and bell peppers. While I think it’s a great start, I plan on doubling or tripling the garden space and variety of crops for next year.
From time to time I will be posting updates on our garden’s progress, and once it’s harvest time I will be creating recipes that are made from home grown, FRESH ingredients from our own little garden. I hope I’ve inspired you to create easier access to fresh foods and maybe try out growing some of your own foods too! Follow along this journey to ending the fresh-food-drought in our food desert.