I’ve been obsessed about all things food-connected from long before starting this blog, and still I had never heard of Food Deserts until recently.  Since then, a half-dozen loose ends have just been tied together:  the simultaneous crises of obesity and malnutrition in this country, our absurdly pricey health care costs, the exploding cases of preventable diseases, the inherent unfairness of unfettered capitalism, and the nagging question why the poor choose Twinkies over beans and rice.

In case you are as clueless as I was to what a Food Desert is, here it is in brief thanks to Wiki:

“According to a report to Congress prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, assessing the extent of limited access to affordable, nutritious food, approximately 2.3 million households in the United States are more than a mile from a supermarket and lack access to a vehicle[3]. The physical distance from full service supermarkets leaves residents of these areas to be more likely to purchase food from convenience stores or corner shops that stock mainly cheap, processed foods or foods high in fats and sugars[4].”

“It has been suggested that people of low socioeconomic status ultimately spend up to 37% more on their food purchases, due to smaller weekly food budgets and poorly stocked grocery stores (Morland, 2002).”

An experienced and opinionated neighbor immediately proposed a not-so-PC explanation to this capitalist quandary:  The mainstream supermarkets can’t possibly stay open in these areas because the crime rates are so high as to render them not only unprofitable for the chain, but even dangerous to the staff.

She may very well be right, and quite honestly it was a viewpoint I hadn’t considered when I first began my inquiry into this issue.  Being excessively idealistic, I had immediately turned my focus to blaming the greedy corporate execs who appear to care so little about the “Triple Bottom Line.”  The fact that potential workers in these non-existent markets might put their lives at stake for minimum wage salaries does indeed add another variable to the equation.

But should it?  Again as last post I am trying to push past the complexities of the issue to dwell instead on the deepest truths.  Capitalism is inherently an unfair system, and to argue against this with the insurmountable evidence all around us today would be absurd.  It is obviously unfair, or we wouldn’t have the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have nots in this otherwise “free” society.  Don’t repeat the hopeless adage that you’ve only to work hard to get ahead, because I personally know plenty of very hard-working people who are barely treading water, and you probably do too.

Does fairness matter to us in this culture?  Not so much.  We have unfairly judged and pushed down all kinds of different peoples in the name of a wide variety of feeble social structures and institutions, religion being only one of many.  Greed holds a much higher position in our moral hierarchy, and while it may be good in pushing human potential and raising societies into power, it has been otherwise crippling to our cultural and psychological development.

But maybe, with enough collective creative willpower we can turn greed into fairness with a bit of manipulation.  What if the Food Deserts exist for no other reason than my dear debate-loving neighbor purports?  For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s an absolute truth, and it has nothing at all to do with the greedy corporations unwilling to tolerate any decrease in profitability.

So instead, we as the taxpaying public, fund the increased medical bills of those who are unable to access real food through our increased health care costs and insurance premiums, the highest in the world, in fact.  As well as through our taxes, which certainly support whatever path a corporation would wish to follow, whether or not it’s in the general public’s best interest.

Which brings me to the more appropriate question:  Can Capitalism exist without us continually subsidizing it through our tax dollars?  And can we even call it Capitalism considering that is exactly what we are doing, both directly and indirectly, depending on the corporate sector in question?

In fact, through my lens of logic it seems that in order to be fair, we the public need to get real greedy, and fast.  Greedy in that we start refusing to allow our hard-earned tax dollars to subsidize our functionally unfair and clearly corrupt Capitalist system.  Then we might get an opportunity to see if authentic Capitalism, if there is such a thing, might be a workable system.  Or, even better, we might collectively attempt to get beyond our current failure of imagination to invent another sort of system that actually has true sustainable potential.

Come on neighbors, dive into the debate!

http://www.fooddesert.net/

http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/fooddesert/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_desert