A food desert is defined by lack of availability; in an area defined as a food desert, there aren’t any options for fresh food.
But in a food swamp, there is some fresh food — but the number of unhealthy options drowns it out. In these areas, there may be a supermarket or a farmer’s market, but there are also many fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and other sources of junk food.
And new research shows that, even with some healthy options, we tend to go with what is convenient. Because of this, food swamps are turning out to be dangerous to public health as well.
This means that just having a nearby grocery store with fresh produce options isn’t enough; we ordinary people aren’t always going to choose the grocery over a fast food option. And the more fast food and unhealthy choices nearby, the less likely we are to choose the healthier option — and the more it’s reflected in our health.
Additionally, food swamps may cover far more of the United States than food deserts:
- The USDA reports that, as of 2017, 12.8% of the population (39.5 million people) live in food deserts.
- In a 2023 study (not yet published but presented at the American Stroke Association), 72.5% of the participants were in a food swamp, with more than five times more unhealthy food choices than healthy ones.
Ready to address the challenges of food swamps and promote healthier communities? Take the first step towards positive change by requesting a demo from Spatially Health. Discover how our innovative solutions can help you combat the dangers of food swamps and create a healthier environment. Submit your demo request today!