By Kristen Johnson, Multimedia Journalist/ Weekend Anchor - bio | email
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -
Not everyone who lives in a food desert, knows it, or even knows what it is. When we asked people in Sioux City, these were some of the responses:
"A desert, it's almost like a place without food."
"A place where you would plant your survival food."
"To me it'd be cactus."
Living about two miles away from the grocery store, is living on the edge of a food desert an area with low access to nutritious food. Technically, anyone living more than a mile away in an urban area, is considered to be living in a food desert. Although, many say the distance to the store is little more than an inconvenience.
"I've been ok with it. It would be nice if there was a place closer," said Debby Munson, who lives on the food desert border.
Her husband Jerry joked, "there's some gardens around here, I guess I could just pillage them for food."
"I've often thought we should have a Wal-mart or something closer," said neighbor Fatima Stoos.
In some Sioux City food deserts, only 2.5% of people are low income. In others, poverty is a major problem. The Midtown Community Center sits smack dab in the middle of a supermarket shortage. Twice a month the Center holds a mobile food pantry for neighbors who don't have enough to eat.
"Need food, and I'm having a hard time," said Sioux City resident Robert Stehlik, as he waited in the mobile food pantry's line.
"There's a lot of people that need food," added Heather Iddings, who also lines up for some a box to take home.
"It helps out a lot," added Carrie Johnson.
However, it doesn't help as much as the volunteers would like.
On this day, the Midtown Community Center started with 80 boxes of food, including four crates of cereal. They ran out.
"I had prepared for us to have 60 families come through, and we doubled that," said Janet Reynolds, who runs the Midtown Community Center.
Two weeks later, the line is even longer.
"I'm seeing more and more and more different people coming through these lines every time I'm here.," observed Midtown volunteer Kevin Smith.
"If there is a significant need or gap in service, yes we would like to look at those areas and make sure that everyone is being served adequately," said Sioux City's Neighborhood Services supervisor Paul Barnes.
A year ago, the city gave financial assistance to help Select Foods open a grocery store on the near northside. That was about the same time the results of this federal study came out. Early struggles are evidence of the tough time grocery stores have moving into poorer neighborhoods.
"I think that you have to demonstrate the need," Barnes explained.
Now, sales are up at Select Foods and they say they're here to stay.
"They're tickled to death that we're in with a grocery store," said Select Foods Store Director Gregg Anderson.
It's turned one Sioux City food desert into an oasis.
Back at Midtown, they've found another way to grow groceries: a community garden. It's one of two the city's sponsored to help fill the void and give neighborhoods better access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
The community center's gotten kids involved, teaching them an important tool and a healthier way to live.
"It's just a good way to give back to the neighborhood and the community and teach the children some new skills that maybe they might not get normally," explained city planner Jill Wandersheid.
The garden started last year and increased from 16 to 20 beds this spring. The federal government is encouraging more communities to adopt community gardens.
Learn about other ways they're fighting the food shortage tomorrow on News Four at Ten.
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