Thursday, April 6, 2017

Is Tohono O'odham Reservation a Food Desert?

With one grocery store for the entire reservation, a limited number of restaurants, and a decreased knowledge of farming techniques, food is not in abundance on the Tohono O'odham reservation. Some members have to travel ten or more miles to buy food, especially when conditions are extremely hot and dry. However, the food that many Tohono O'odham buy isn't healthy and there isn't a wide variety of grocery options available. A food desert is an area in which nutritious food is difficult to obtain for a variety of reasons. Using this definition, the reservation is indeed a food desert.

The most pressing problem of the Tohono O'odham is the lack of grocery stores on the reservation. Sells, the "major city" of the reservation has one grocery store and this store is the only one I saw on the reservation. Thus, the availability of food is an issue because one store can only stock a limited amount of food. Hence, there may be a lack of options for the Tohono O'odham on the reservation. Additionally, the presence of one grocery store in the area presents the issue of distance. Families have to travel many miles if they are from remote area. This puts an additional burden to tribal members who have to engage in frequent travel to buy food.

Another imprtant issue is affordability of food. A predominant number of people on the reservation live in poverty and thus may struggle to buy food. In general, healthy food is more expensive than junk food. Hence, the increasing issue of obesity on the reservation may be correlated to the relative cost of junk food for a large portion of the tribe. Even the TOCA Cafe which has healthy desert food is expensive and may not be an option for many families on the reservation.

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