The existence of food deserts is a systemic problem that is influenced by racist and classist structures of oppression that neglect the needs of certain communities in order to maintain neoliberal capitalism. First, this section is going to discuss how concentrated poverty is influenced by the local and federal government’s apathy towards certain communities. The Metropolitan Council in the Twin Cities did a study entitled “Racially Concentrated Areas of Poverty (RCAP) in the Region” to look at poverty within Twin Cities and determine what that means on a larger, systemic scale. The language around RCAPs has changed, and now the Twin Cities officially use the phrase Areas of Concentrated Poverty where 50% or more of residents are people of color (ACP50). Therefore the remainder of this guide will use the updated language with ACP50. This document states that:
“By limiting the ability of people of color to leave areas of concentrated poverty, the race-specific barriers to housing choice discussed in Section Four perpetuate [ACP50]. In fact, these barriers closely intertwine racial disparities and [ACP50], making [ACP50] places that reproduce these disparities. As long as the [ACP50] continue to exist and expand, they will reinforce and intensify racial disparities in the region as a whole.”
This quote exemplifies the notion that blame for the existence of ACP50’s needs to be placed on the systems of power that are perpetuating the cycle of poverty and the immobility, both literally and figuratively, out. This problem also explains how ACP50’s not getting the resources that the residents need to survive, such as access to healthy, fresh food. PolicyLink, a national research and activist institution created a document entitled The Grocery Gap: Who Has Access to Healthy Food and Why it Matters that looks at which neighborhoods are deprived of access to grocery stores. The findings by Policy Link coincide with those of the Metropolitan Council by articulating that “people living in low-income neighborhoods, minority neighborhoods, and rural communities face much greater challenges finding healthy food, especially those who lack good transportation” (Policy Link 13). These quotes provide evidence that the existence of food deserts are directly related to ACP50s and low-income neighborhoods, and are created as a result of neglect by local governments and businesses as well as neoliberal capitalism since mainstream grocery stores are part of a profitable market. Another issue lies within the tracking and development of grocery stores in the United States. There are are few differentiating factors that divide the categorization of stores, placing almost all structures that sell food to be deemed a “grocery store.” For example, a small, locally owned corner store would be placed in the same category as a large chain grocery store. So when looking at a map, if the cities were categorized in this manner, then there would be reason to believe that resources were distributed evenly, which is not the case. This is another way that governments overlook the needs of their residents to survive, since there is a lack of attention paid to making sure that people are being fed properly.