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Program works to combat food deserts in the Valley

Food deserts in the Valley
Posted at 7:18 PM, Oct 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-02 08:27:37-04

The Sonoran Desert covers much of Arizona, but many people who call it home are also living in a desert of a different kind: a food desert.

The USDA defines 'Food Deserts' as populated areas without a grocery store for more than a mile. They're dotted all over the Valley and around the state. But food deserts are about more than convenience. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables is among the factors limiting the life expectancy of some of the most vulnerable in our community.

Information from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows a 13-year life expectancy gap between parts of the 85009 zip code in Phoenix compared to North Scottsdale's 85262.

Phoenix Heart Ball chairperson Kristine Thompson is working to raise money and awareness for the Farm Express, a program trying to tackle that issue.

"Telling someone to go live your best life and eat healthy just doesn't mean as much," if it's a struggle just to get to a store, Thompson said.

The non-profit operates two buses that travel to under-served communities. The buses are retrofitted as mobile grocery markets. The produce is sold at cost. Over the past five years, the food buses have served some 40 thousand people.

Bus schedules are available online on the Farm Express website.

If you'd like to check the life expectancy in your city or neighborhood, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has an interactive tool you can use.

Finally, if you'd like to support the efforts of the Phoenix Heart Ball, tickets and donation information are available on their website.