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Those 'Food Deserts' May Become Food Wastelands

For years those of us involved in welfare and entitlement policy have heard about “food deserts.” Sadly, the riots, arson, looting and destruction that has taken place in so many large cities may be turning what were food deserts into food wastelands.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a food desert as “areas where people have limited access to a variety of healthy and affordable food.” The USDA’s Economic Research Service has “identified approximately 6,500 food desert tracts in the United States.”
There are different ways of determining a food desert. One USDA approach cites, “Low-income census tracts where a significant number (at least 500 people) or share (at least 33 percent) of the population is greater than 1.0 mile from the nearest supermarket, supercenter, or large grocery store for an urban area or greater than 20 miles for a rural area.”
One mile may not be an insurmountable obstacle if you have a car, but it can be for low-income and inner-city families.
Elected officials and low-income advocates have been encouraging more grocery stores to locate in the food deserts to provide residents with at least one healthy alternative.
Unfortunately, the riots we are seeing in many cities are likely to bring those efforts to a halt—for years.
Would grocery store owners want to invest money in a building and stocking the shelves—or rebuilding and restocking the shelves—if there is a decent chance the store will be looted and burned?
Especially when some of the riot supporters have come to see looting as a feature rather than a bug.
There is, for example, Vicki Osterweil’s new book, “In Defense of Looting: A Riotous History of Uncivil Action,” where she explains, “Looting represents a material way that riots and protests help the community.”
And she explains that looting provides "a way for people to solve some of the immediate problems of poverty and by creating a space for people to freely reproduce their lives rather than doing so through wage labor.” 
She’s not alone in those sentiments. Chicago Black Lives Matter organizer Ariel Atkins recently explained BLM’s views on riots to the Chicago news outlets, “I don’t care if someone decides to loot a Gucci or a Macy’s or a Nike store, because that makes sure that person eats.” 
Of course, to ensure a person eats, food has to be available. It’s really tough to buy (or steal) the food you need if grocery stores refuse to rebuild—turning those food deserts into food wastelands.