Tag Archives: food deserts

Native American tribe wields sales tax to promote healthier eating

Image by  Mike Licht via flickr.

Image by Mike Licht via flickr.

Hoping to encourage healthier eating habits, leaders of the Navajo Nation have imposed a potentially precedent-setting tax on junk food and sodas.

The 27,000-square-mile territory, which extends into Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, as of April 1 added a 2-cent sales tax to an existing 5-cent sales tax on most goods sold there, Eliza Barclay reported for National Public Radio’s food blog, The Salt. Fresh fruits and vegetables sold on the reservation have been tax-free since October as part of the tribe’s healthy eating initiative. Continue reading

Should Seattle Superfund site address health as well as pollution?

InvestigateWest’s Carol Smith writes in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and InvestigateWest.org that the focus on the environmental disaster of Seattle’s industrial Duwamish River obscures another, equally potent, long-simmering health crisis. For the folks who live near the Superfund site, pollutants from the river are just one of many health risks. Access to groceries and health care is limited, and obesity and poverty rates are higher than surrounding neighborhoods while expected lifespans are years shorter. As Superfund recommendations begin to take shape, the health side of the cleanup is bubbling to the forefront.

While there’s been exhaustive analysis of the environmental impact of historical polluters on the river and the health of creatures that live in it, as well as theoretical risk assessments of individual pollutants on human health, relatively little attention has been paid to the actual health status of residents living within the 32-square-mile Superfund site. Nor has there been consideration of the cumulative impact of the many health hazards they face.

The big question, Smith writes, is “Should the area be held to a higher cleanup threshold because the people living in its midst are already more vulnerable to the health risks posed by the toxic chemicals in their environment? ”

The answer might lie in the area’s status as an “environmental justice neighborhood,” which means it is “subject to the 1994 executive order by President Clinton that directed federal agencies to address inequities in communities where low-income or minority communities were experiencing health disparities caused by their environment.”

Collaboration brings Calif. hunger into focus

Food insecurity is on the rise throughout the country, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimating that one of every seven American households struggled to put food on the table last year.

A 20-part, multimedia series from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, in collaboration with California Watch, looks at the problem in that state, finding that the numbers of Californians who are struggling to have enough food is rising at an unprecedented rate.

The stories look at food deserts, how a lack of food affects children’s learning ability, struggling food banks, what it takes to eat on a “food stamp budget,” how food is wasted in restaurants, the difficulties of distributing food to those who need it and much more.

The project was produced over several months by 13 graduate students with contributions from members of the California Watch staff, Annenberg professors and staff, and staff from the Los Angeles Times and KQED’s The California Report.