Finding healthful food while living off-campus is the second most difficult task to do as a Cornellian — only passing “Introduction to Wines” is harder. We need creative solutions from the University and the municipal government to help encourage healthier eating habits in Ithaca’s food desert.

It might surprise you that much of Ithaca is actually part of a food desert, according to the USDA’s definition. In an urban area — I know, it might be a bit rich to call Ithaca urban, although it’s also not exactly rural — a food desert requires the absence of a full-service grocery store in a one-mile radius. Much of the northwest and southern areas of the 14850 zip code area fit this definition.

Unsurprisingly, a large body of literature corroborates the negative effects of food deserts. The existence of food deserts is primarily stratified along socioeconomic and racialized lines, with minority underserved communities being disproportionately affected by a lack of access to healthy food. A lack of food sovereignty is also related to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and might play a role in obesity rates, although there is no clear consensus yet. This is especially a problem during the pandemic, as grocery store hours may be reduced and finding safe transportation may be even more difficult. It would behoove each of us to be aware and thoughtful of how our local community can or cannot have access to high quality and nutritious food.

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