Don’t Get Stranded in Northeast Florida’s Food Deserts
Having experienced the difficulties associated with being obese, it is important for people who have had a sleeve gastrectomy or gastric band to make sure they are making an extra effort to seek out healthy food stores if they aren’t readily accessible to their neighborhoods. Large cities such as Jacksonville are extremely spread out, leaving some residents in certain communities to travel long distances in order to buy fresh dairy products, meats and vegetables.
According to the U.S. Department of Health, approximately 23.5 million Americans live in a food desert . Food deserts are any census district where 33 percent of inhabitants live over a mile from the nearest supermarket. This leads the government to believe food deserts are contributing to America’s obesity problem by forcing residents to rely on fast food or processed foods instead of fresh, healthier products. This inaccessibility to healthy food stores is causing families to not get the proper nutrition they need.
As a bariatric surgery recipient, you will be making many new and healthy lifestyle changes in order to achieve weight loss goals—so you don’t want to let the area you live in get in the way. If you are living in a so-called food desert or just have to travel an extra couple of minutes to get to stores that can provide fresh produce and meats, here are some helpful tips to avoiding closer, less healthy food store alternatives.
- Talk to store managers – Sometimes the issue isn’t always with close proximity when it comes to grocery stores—some store owners simply do not sell certain fresh food products because they don’t think they are in demand. If you feel like there are enough people in your neighborhood looking to buy fresh products, talk to the store managers. Tell them if they are willing to start selling more fresh food options that you and your neighbors will buy them.
- Don’t give up – If transportation is the only thing holding you back from taking the longer trips to the healthier stores, don’t throw in the towel yet. If you don’t have a car, see if there is a city bus route near your neighborhood that you could use. If not, biking is another option to consider and it can get you places faster than cars because you don’t have to deal with most lights and traffic jams. Don’t let simple road blocks get in the way of maintaining a healthy diet after bariatric surgery.
- Turn a blind eye – If you have a hard time resisting the bright lights of the fast food restaurants in your neighborhood, turn a blind eye—literally. If it’s easy for you to give in when it comes to fast food rather than driving the extra miles to a healthy grocery store, do anything you can to avoid seeing them. Take back roads until you can safely return to the main street without having to see any tempting fast food signs.
Many areas surrounding Northeast Florida such as Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Gainesville have heavily populated food deserts. If you are trying to sustain healthy lifestyle choices after bariatric surgery, make sure you’re not letting the area you live in get in your way. Check out this interactive map to see if you live in an area considered a food desert and use the tips above to help you stay on track with weight loss goals.