Aquaponics: The Frontier to Food Deserts
People often think that developing nations are the only places fighting malnutrition and food problems, but the reality is that it's happening in our own backyards. Food deserts are geographic areas where there is severely limited or no access to healthy food such as fruits, vegetables, and proteins. The problem in food deserts in the United States isn’t necessarily a shortage in food, but rather a lack of nutritional food within a convenient distance. In many neighborhoods, especially in urban areas, food availability is limited to processed foods sold in convenience stores, gas stations, and local markets. With a scarcity of healthy nutritional options, numerous health issues associated with diet are on the rise in food desert affected areas.
Health disparities are among the highest in minority groups, and typically these groups live in areas where healthy foods are not available. In these areas families cannot afford healthy options and thus are forced to eat what is cheap. While this obviously saves money, there are consequences. Over time, consumption of processed food leads to health problems. This is one of the main reasons why among minority groups rates of obesity, diabetes, and other cardiovascular diseases are higher. What adds to the problem is the fact that healthier foods are in fact more expensive in food deserts than in areas where fruits and vegetables can be found almost anywhere. Studies have shown that areas where high-caloric foods are sold, typically in food deserts, puts those populations at a much higher risk of developing health conditions. This is not to make the assumption that food deserts are a problem just among minority groups and lower-income residents, but rather food deserts affect these populations far more than others.
With the increase in food deserts across the country, minority groups have been at the front of this crisis, but recent trends have picked up ways to combat this growing issue. In food deserts across the world, aquaponics has become a viable solution in providing healthy food options in areas that do not have the resources nor the access to these foods. It's a closed system that uses the least amount of resources and is able to produce the same amount of crops in a sustainable manner.
Cities across the US like Chicago and Denver have made the effort to combat this food imbalance with the help of organizations. In Denver, The GrowHaus has been setting up markets where vegetables and fruits are sold at a significantly lower and affordable prices by using aquaponics to grow their food. In Chicago, several companies utilize aquaponics to give communities access to healthy foods. Companies like Plant Chicago and Metro Farms have been able to employ their aquaponics systems to grow food just about anywhere, from garages to buildings, improving communities with a sustainable solution.
Although communities dealing with lack of access to healthy food is a complex problem, aquaponics has been able to alleviate some of this pressure by providing sustainable, nutritious foods as efficiently as possible. With more and more people becoming aware of this issue and and aquaponics, there have been increased efforts to make an impact within communities in need. The term food deserts both refers to the noun of having being depleted of something, in this case food, and the verb indicating the action of taking something away. There are many forces at work creating this problem, but through public education, and the implementation of aquaponics systems, food deserts have become a problem that can alleviated with people actively fighting for equal access to nutritionally rich, locally sourced food.