Is "food desert " comment fair -- or insulting?
COLUMBIA, 7/12/11 (Beat Byte) -- Kraft Foods, which owns an Oscar Mayer meat plant in Columbia, has announced a novel initiative to get fresh produce and other food to the hungry and needy -- mobile farmers markets -- in ten American cities, including Columbia, but with an odd swipe at city participants.
In a press release about the effort, the food manufacturing giant characterized Columbia as a "food desert -- an urban or rural area where residents have limited access to grocery stores and emergency food assistance."
"Mobile pantries are critical to getting more fresh foods to people in low-income communities," said Vicki Escarra, President and CEO of Kraft pantry partner Feeding America. "Many of our clients live in food deserts or neighborhoods where opportunities to purchase healthy, affordable groceries are scarce."
Columbia, however, is home to one of the nation's most active food pantries -- The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, under the direction of Peggy Kirkpatrick, a dynamo known for her charismatic leadership and enormous food support system. The city also hosts a number of farmers markets and comparatively low cost food, given several Wal-Marts and Sams Club heating up the competition.
In its third year, the Kraft Foods Mobile Pantry program has delivered 33 million pounds of food, company officials explained, again emphasizing the "food desert" concept.
"The mobile pantries are uniquely designed to help food banks expand their reach and bring food assistance to underserved areas," said Nicole Robinson, Vice President, Kraft Foods Foundation. "With a diverse selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy and protein, the trucks deliver a good mix of nutrition and help close the gap for our neighbors in the nation's food deserts."
The refrigerated trucks bring fresh fruit, vegetables, and dairy products to neighborhood food pantries, churches or school parking lots an average of 120 times a year. "Families and individuals are invited to select food as they would at a farmers' market – produce like fresh lettuce, crunchy apples, crisp green beans, and other meal-time staples such as Kraft macaroni and cheese, and Oscar Mayer meats," company officials added.
Other cities involved in the program include Fredericksburg, Va.; Fort Pierce, Fla.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Lafayette, Ind.; Orlando, Fla.; Salt Lake City; San Diego; Spokane, Wash.; and Springfield, Ohio. What qualifies these cities as "food deserts," however, was not explained.