Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by alex. alex Wonders, “Why do we need food?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, alex!

When you see the word “desert,” what comes to mind? If you’re hungry, you may think of ice cream, chocolate, cake, or pie. But that would be “dessert” you’re thinking of, not “desert.”

“Desert” might bring sand and cacti to mind. Many deserts are areas that receive very little rainfall each year. You might think of places like the Sahara Desert in Africa. However, a desert doesn’t have to be hot and sandy. It could be cold and icy instead.

We can also use the word “desert” in another way. Many people in the world live in places that can be called food deserts. These are places where residents don’t have convenient access to affordable, healthy food. They lack places like grocery stores, farmers’ markets, or fresh fruit and vegetable stands.

Think back to the last time you went to the grocery store. How far away was it? Hopefully, you didn’t have to travel far. Food deserts can be found in urban, suburban, and rural areas. They tend to pop up in low-income areas. They are also more likely to affect regions with high populations of Black and Brown people.

Instead of grocery stores, food deserts often have many fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. These rarely carry healthy foods. Instead, they often sell processed foods high in sugar and fat. These so-called “fringe foods” include chips, snack cakes, and sodas. They may be the only choices for some people living in food deserts.

Experts believe this contributes to many health issues for the people living in these areas. This includes cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Food deserts also lead to food insecurity. This means people often don’t know where their food will come from. It can be hard to eat regular, nutritious meals when you live in a food desert. That’s due to limited or no access to healthy options.

There is no easy fix to the problem of food deserts. Still, people on the local, state, and national level are working to find solutions. From community gardens to mobile food pantries, there are many ways to bring healthy, affordable food into these areas.

Of course, building a permanent grocery store in a food desert can definitely help solve the problem. How far away is your closest grocery? If you and your neighbors have to travel too far to reach it, try talking with your local and state leaders. Ask them how you can help bring more food to your area. You never know how many people it could help!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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