Income Level and Food Swamps
Nutritional scientists at University of Toronto’s Lana School of Public Health agree that food swamps don’t depend on the income level of a neighborhood. Food swamps, opposed to food deserts, exist in both high and lower income areas of cities.
Scientists attest food swamps purely to bad city (or urban) planning, according to professors of food security and nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. With food swamps, limited unhealthy food choices are driven by high transit costs and lack of access.
Waistline and Food Options
New York City’s Department of Health (DOH) pinpoints 3 prime food swamp neighborhoods—the Upper East Side, Central Harlem, and East Harlem. Sure, all 3 areas have easy access to food, but the food available is overwhelmingly subpar and just plain unhealthy.
The DOH found the lower income areas of East and Central Harlem with more bodegas (convenience stores) a total average obesity rate of 29-percent. While the higher income Upper East Side, had slightly more supermarkets, slightly less fast food options, and a total average obesity rate of 22-percent (on par with the NYC average).
The City Planning Aspect
Ensuring that nutritional food is available at reasonable cost to people should be part and parcel with city planning, according to Debbie Field, FoodShare Toronto’s executive director.
Field suggests that any time areas are designated for new neighborhoods, part of the planning process should include an accessibility plan for healthy food options. The plan should consider healthy food within walking distance for residents living in the immediate area.