According to the Chicago Tribune, I live in a food desert. This would be funny except stretching the definition of a food desert denigrates the real concern of residents who live in significant food deserts.
I qualify because I live "farther than a half-mile from stores larger than 2,500 feet that sell fresh produce." Those in rural areas and small towns would snicker at that definition, because over 99% of people would fail that test. In the inner city, a mile or two can make a difference.
Let me take you into my area and show you the "horrible" conditions of my "food desert."
Outside my window is a Mexican restaurant. Two blocks down (¼ mile) is a really good Mexican restaurant. But we aren't talking restaurants. I live one block from a 7-11 where there are bananas on occasion. Haven't bought a 7-11 banana.
About ¾ mile west is a store of at least 2,500 feet that sells fresh produce. I have another large grocery store about 1 mile northeast and another store from that same chain 1 mile east. These big stores all have door-to-door bus service from my corner.
I don't generally go to those big stores for fresh produce. Across the street from the big store northeast of me is a Mexican supermercado that has great produce for cheap prices. I just bought beautiful romaine lettuce for 89¢ that looks and tastes better (and cheaper) than what is across the street. Heading east but just under a mile, I can find a small grocery store that specializes in African and Caribbean products with good looking produce. Hard to find things for rather nice prices.
I have a specialty store that sells organic and fancier things that is virtually ½ mile, though that is new enough that it wouldn't be on the map. I haven't bought produce there, but they have some nice selection. There is the Middle Eastern place that is less than ½ mile; lots of food there but maybe not produce. All these places are smaller than 2,500 feet.
I have a sausage/deli specialty place slightly more than a mile away, and another Mexican supermercado about 1¼ miles away.
In the summertime, we have a weekly farmers market exactly ½ mile from my house and a smaller weekly summer market just under a mile away with lots of fresh produce. The larger market runs about 16 weeks a year.
The stories you hear about real food deserts involve bus rides of 3 miles or more, more than one bus to get to a large store with fresh produce, bus routes involving crossing gang areas, and lots of temptations that are quicker than cooking at home.
My nearest McDonald's is just beyond the distance to the grocery stores. And I have plenty of restaurants and cafes that are better and healthier all within a mile of my place.
If you are older or disabled, the difference between ½ mile and a mile isn't fun. We don't want to diminish that. If the standard was ¾ mile, I would not be in a food desert. But I can get better produce at stores a very short distance further for cheaper prices. In real food deserts, the smaller places have worse quality produce for higher prices. This is not a problem I or my neighbors have.
Do not cry for me or anyone else in my neighborhood. Cry for those with real issues and real problems in getting fresh produce. Expanding the definition of food deserts hurts those who really need the help, and diminishes their suffering.