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The Myth of Michelle Obama's "Food Desert"
Townhall.com ^ | May 2, 2013 | Political Calculations

Posted on 05/02/2013 6:47:47 AM PDT by Kaslin

Science is a wonderful tool for understanding how our world really works. But if the science supporting a given understanding is flawed, or worse, if it is slanted in favor of a politically-favored outcome, it can become the justification for excessively wasteful activities. When science crosses that line, it is transformed from something that is worthy of respect into junk science.

This is the story of Michelle Obama and her fight against the food deserts of America. The story begins on 24 February 2010, when the First Lady of the United States of America used her White House platform to introduce the little-understood concept of the newly-discovered "food deserts" of America to Americans as part of a media blitz:

As part of Lets Move!, the campaign to end childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama is taking on food deserts. These are nutritional wastelands that exist across America in both urban and rural communities where parents and children simply do not have access to a supermarket. Some 23.5 million Americans – including 6.5 million children – currently live in food deserts. Watch the video below and learn what the First Lady is doing to help families in these areas across the country.

 

Food deserts sound horrible. Isn't it good that the First Lady is doing something about this awful problem that would appear to be plaguing America's most poor, yet obese citizens, who suffer because they are deprived from having large supermarkets stocked with nutritious foods within walking distance of where they live?Big Pine Canyon, Big Bend National Park - Source: National Park Service

Or is the First Lady relying upon junk science to justify the wasteful expenditure of taxpayer money to benefit her and the President's political cronies? After all, there was already plenty of evidence back in 2010 that indicated that food deserts were more a junk science-fueled political talking point than a real factor that significantly contributed to making poor Americans obese, as the original 2006 study proclaiming the crisis in President Obama's home base of Chicago was funded by LaSalle Bank of Chicago, then the largest business lender in the city, who would directly profit from investments to "remedy" the situation.

Fortunately, respectable science can help provide the answers to these questions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control very recently published a peer-reviewed scientific study of the impact that a lack of nearby access to nutritious foods, such as might be found in one of the First Lady's food deserts, actually has upon the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the Americans who live within such regions. Here are the results and conclusion for their study of 97,678 adults in the state of California (home to 1 out of every 8 Americans):

Results

Food outlets within walking distance (=1.0 mile) were not strongly associated with dietary intake, BMI, or probabilities of a BMI of 25.0 or more or a BMI of 30.0 or more. We found significant associations between fast-food outlets and dietary intake and between supermarkets and BMI and probabilities of a BMI of 25.0 or more and a BMI of 30.0 or more for food environments beyond walking distance (>1.0 mile).

Conclusion

We found no strong evidence that food outlets near homes are associated with dietary intake or BMI. We replicated some associations reported previously but only for areas that are larger than what typically is considered a neighborhood. A likely reason for the null finding is that shopping patterns are weakly related, if at all, to neighborhoods in the United States because of access to motorized transportation.

Economist Jacob Geller reviewed the study's statistical results:

If you look at the statistical tables, they’re pretty striking. Even where there is statistical significance — which is the exception to the rule — the size of the effect is so tiny, it’s like practically nothing. For example, on the margin, adding one full-service supermarket within a one-mile radius of your house is associated with an average BMI decrease in your neighborhood of .115. That is a difference of just one pound. (see back-of-the-envelope calculations here)

So there is really no relationship, according to this one recent study of nearly 100,000 Californians, between the distance between your body and a full-service supermarket (or any other kind of food store), and whether or not you are obese. Distance, which is a proxy for access (the idea of a food desert is that the nearest supermarket, which has fresh produce, is distant), is for all practical purposes a non-factor.

We created the following tool so you can see what Michelle Obama's publicity campaign to direct large and/or politically well-connected retailers to spend millions of dollars to open or expand stores in the "disadvantaged" regions identified by the U.S. government as supposed food deserts would have in terms of your own weight. And the cool part is that the math is such that we can figure out just how much that would be for you from just your height!

Your Height
Input Data

Values
Your Height [inches]

 

Your "Food Desert" Weight
Calculated Results

Values
Amount in Weight [pounds]

If you're accessing this tool on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, please click here to access the original, functioning version of this tool!

Our tool indicates how much of your weight would be affected by whether you lived within a food desert. If you live in an area identified by the U.S. government as a food desert, it indicates how much more you would weigh, and if you were to move out of that area, it is how much you would lose. To put your result into proper context, the weight of an adult American normally fluctuates by up to 5 pounds during the course of a single day.

Did we mention large and/or politically well-connected retailers are involved? That's actually how we know that the whole food desert publicity campaign is really about crony capitalism more than it is about dealing with the health problems of obesity. Because in truth, if it were a real problem that could be fixed by opening new store locations, it would be a lot easier, cheaper and faster for small "Mom and Pop"-style grocery businesses to fit themselves into the already existing and available retail spaces within such deprived communities as the supposed food deserts of America.

But since the whole food desert concept would seem to be based on junk science rather than the more respectable kind, it is perhaps too much to ask for the solutions advanced by the politicians taking charge of the crisis to solve a legitimate problem.

References

Carras, Michelle Colder. Normal Body Weight Fluctuation. LiveStrong.com. http://www.livestrong.com/article/29567-normal-body-weight-fluctuation/. 7 May 2011.

Croft, Cammie. Food desert? What’s a food desert? White House Blog. http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/02/24/taking-food-deserts. 24 February 2010.

Gallagher, Mari. Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago. http://www.marigallagher.com/site_media/dynamic/project_files/Chicago_Food_Desert_Report.pdf. Mari Gallagher Research & Consulting Group, sponsored by LaSalle Bank. 2006.

Geller, Jacob A. The Problem of "Food Deserts" Is Not All About Access. http://jacobageller.com/2013/04/the-problem-of-food-deserts-is-not-all-about-access/. 3 April 2013.

Hattori A, An R, Sturm R. Neighborhood Food Outlets, Diet, and Obesity Among California Adults, 2007 and 2009. Prev Chronic Dis 2013;10:120123. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd10.120123. 14 March 2013.

McWhorter, John. The Root: The Myth of the Food Desert. National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/2010/12/15/132076786/the-root-the-myth-of-the-food-desert. 15 December 2010.

Mooney, Alexander. First Lady Takes on 'Food Deserts'. CNN: The 1600 Report. http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/20/first-lady-takes-on-%E2%80%98food-deserts%E2%80%99/. 20 July 2011.

Political Calculations. How To Detect Junk Science. http://politicalcalculations.blogspot.com/2009/08/how-to-detect-junk-science.html. 19 August 2009.

White House. Transcript of President Obama's Remarks at 2013 White House Science Fair. White House Photos and Video. http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2013/04/22/president-obama-tours-2013-white-house-science-fair#transcript. 22 April 2013.

Wright, Ann. Interactive Web Tool Maps Food Deserts, Provides Key Data. http://www.letsmove.gov/blog/2011/05/03/interactive-web-tool-maps-food-deserts-provides-key-data. LetsMove.gov. 3 May 2011.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 05/02/2013 6:47:47 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

Michelle usually has food desserts.


2 posted on 05/02/2013 6:52:08 AM PDT by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
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To: Kaslin
A local story.

Jackson City Council votes to create federally funded bus route from impoverished wards to ALDI

Rather than asking why there are no grocery stores in a particular part of town, taxpayers will pay to bus people to shop in another part of town.

Also interesting that the bus will take people to a particular store in an area with many other grocery stores.
3 posted on 05/02/2013 6:53:25 AM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: Kaslin

Counting supermarkets in urban areas is not and never will be science, junk science or otherwise.

Just as polling is not science. Social ‘science’ is not science.


4 posted on 05/02/2013 6:56:56 AM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send GOP to D.C. to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism)
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To: Kaslin

BMI is a very misleading measure in the first place.


5 posted on 05/02/2013 6:57:41 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: Kaslin

If you’re in an area which cannot adequately sustain life (ie.: yours), MOVE.
Yes, it may be hard (much less so than whiners contend), but the alternative is prolonged suffering and death. Demanding others bring you good food is insane: they’re not for a reason, take the hint already and MOVE.


6 posted on 05/02/2013 6:58:46 AM PDT by ctdonath2 (Making good people helpless doesn't make bad people harmless.)
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To: Kaslin

Wonder what the diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity rates in these food desert areas happen to be.........


7 posted on 05/02/2013 7:02:35 AM PDT by edpc (Wilby 2016)
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To: cripplecreek

“No maam. We don’t carry pig intestines. Sorry, we don’t carry mullet either. “.

Sorry, Southern joke. Every time we got a new Yankee employee, they would ask about both.


8 posted on 05/02/2013 7:04:07 AM PDT by AppyPappy (You never see a massacre at a gun show.)
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To: Kaslin
To have this very noticeably overweight woman tell any of us that our kids or we are overweight is a damned insult. You'd think that one of her 42 personal daily attendants would stand her up in front of a mirror . . . just once . . .

It absolutely offends me that this tub of lard would dare to criticize other people.

9 posted on 05/02/2013 7:05:22 AM PDT by laweeks
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To: Kaslin

Those areas are food deserts due to shoppers who create their own personal 100% off sales.


10 posted on 05/02/2013 7:05:49 AM PDT by GeorgeTex (Obama-Four M President (Mendacious Manchurian Muslim Marxist))
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To: ctdonath2
Sam Kinison

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKNoJ2BzSRU

11 posted on 05/02/2013 7:05:58 AM PDT by verga (A nation divided by Zero!)
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To: Kaslin

The USDA had for awhile an inter-active map that showed where the “food deserts” were. I lived in one yet there was a grocery store less than a mile away. They are basing their claims that an area is a food desert on household incomes rather than access to food so they can divvy up the loot to the poor. It’s just another commie wealth transfer.


12 posted on 05/02/2013 7:08:53 AM PDT by lwd
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To: cripplecreek
I just did a search on grocery stores in Jackson, MI. There are 40 of them of which one is Safe-A-Lot. Why did they not choose that one?

BTW, we do have a Aldi store about 1.15 miles from my house. I have absolutely no use for that store

13 posted on 05/02/2013 7:14:17 AM PDT by Kaslin (He needed the ignorant to reelect him, and he got them. Now we all have to pay the consequenses)
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To: cripplecreek
Also interesting that the bus will take people to a particular store in an area with many other grocery stores.

Look for this particular Aldis (and any nearby retailers) to quickly go out of business due to theft.

14 posted on 05/02/2013 7:18:04 AM PDT by wbill
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To: Kaslin

I go to Aldi’s occasionally. At least with my local store, you can do very well there, but can’t plan a weekly grocery trip around them because you never know what you’re going to get. Merch is different every time.


15 posted on 05/02/2013 7:20:13 AM PDT by wbill
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To: Kaslin

"Food Deserts? I thought you said Food Desserts."


16 posted on 05/02/2013 7:24:11 AM PDT by Iron Munro (Welcome to Obama-Land - EVERYTHING NOT FORBIDDEN IS COMPULSORY)
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To: Kaslin
The Myth of Michelle Obama's "Food Desert""

Where are the First Wookie's references?

Michelle---HA, HA - Loser!

17 posted on 05/02/2013 7:24:16 AM PDT by hummingbird (So much conspiracy and not enough time.)
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To: Kaslin

I’ve recently been self-diagnosed with a serious metabolic disorder that has put me on a severely restricted diet - I can only eat food.

And I’ve been surprised at how much junk in the local grocery stores isn’t actually food. The shelves are full of edible food-like substances.

But I live in the inner city, and even in the gritty neighborhood grocery store I can find fresh meat, dairy, eggs, produce, and whole grains. That most of what most people eat is processed crap isn’t because whole foods aren’t available. It’s because eating crap is cheap and convenient.

If you’re eating whole foods, you have three choices. Either you pay a lot more, or you work a lot more, or you plan a lot more.

Me, I plan. Half-an-hour’s work, and 10 hours of waiting on my six-quart slow-cooker, and I have a dozen individual serving freezer containers of pot roast.

But that works for me because 1, my schedule is stable, and 2, I have freezer space. It’s hard to prepare meals a week in advance, when you don’t know whose couch you’re going to be sleeping on, tomorrow.


18 posted on 05/02/2013 7:25:35 AM PDT by jdege
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To: Kaslin

Where I live, federal grant money is being used to pay gas stations to carry fruit.

No Kidding.


19 posted on 05/02/2013 7:30:53 AM PDT by lacrew (Mr. Soetoro, we regret to inform you that your race card is over the credit limit.)
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To: Kaslin

I don’t know why they would choose Aldi. Personally I prefer Save-a-lot for cheap staples.


20 posted on 05/02/2013 7:35:55 AM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: AppyPappy

No sausage casings? No chitlin’s? No smoked mullet dip?

Sounds like a food desert to me!


21 posted on 05/02/2013 7:39:22 AM PDT by Little Ray (How did I end up in this hand-basket, and why is it getting so hot?)
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To: Kaslin

I just brought up a map of “food deserts”.

http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/go-to-the-atlas.aspx#.UYKAMspv9Mg

Many of these places are “deserts” because they ARE deserts! Few people live there! On some it is very rural areas and people have been traveling long distances for groceries for the last 100 years or longer.

In other cases a “food desert” may be right next to a county that has plenty of food.
Example: Southern Deleware County OK is a “food desert”. Yet is is right next to Benton County AR which has large numbers of grocery stores right next to the State line.

Union County NM is a desert. Few people live there and Clayton, does have a large grocery store. Many people there choose to shop at Dalhart, TX. The panhandle of Oklahoma is the same way. Dry, High Plains with few people living there.

San Juan County NM. The West side is a food desert because it is Navajo Reservation! Yet Farmington, Aztec, and Bloomfield NM have large numbers of grocery stores.

The “Food Deserts” are a myth.


22 posted on 05/02/2013 8:21:46 AM PDT by Ruy Dias de Bivar (Do we now register our pressure cookers?)
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To: edpc

Yup. If the major health problem in the area is obesity, the area is not a food desert. If calorie acquisition is not a problem but nutrition is, the infrastructure is in place but the demand - to wit CHOICE - is a self-imposed problem.


23 posted on 05/02/2013 10:05:37 AM PDT by ctdonath2 (Making good people helpless doesn't make bad people harmless.)
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To: allmendream
Social ‘science’ is not science.

Well, hold on there. It can be. Remember, "science" is a set of methods, not a subject matter. If you are willing to follow the rules you can study anything scientifically.

24 posted on 05/02/2013 5:19:21 PM PDT by hinckley buzzard
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To: hinckley buzzard

Not really. Is Eisenhower or Dewey going to win the Presidency according to ‘scientific’ polling?


25 posted on 05/02/2013 5:41:09 PM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send GOP to D.C. to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism)
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To: allmendream; hinckley buzzard
Bad data = bad science. You can study anything "scientifically', but the accuracy or "repeatability" of the outcome will be limited by the quality of the data.

AKA: Garbage in, Garbage out
26 posted on 05/02/2013 7:58:51 PM PDT by The_Sword_of_Groo (My world view is accurately expressed in the lyrics of " The Fightin' Side of Me")
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To: The_Sword_of_Groo

You cannot study any number of things utilizing the scientific method. The fall of Rome is not reproducible or measurable or predictable. It happened once due to various causes that cannot be reinancted holding everything else constant while changing one variable. There is no control group.


27 posted on 05/02/2013 8:44:11 PM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send GOP to D.C. to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism)
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To: allmendream
Sure you could, If, as you mentioned, you had a control group or enough data to compare. I am speaking in general, conceptual terms. "The Fall of Rome"...ok, whats your hypothesis? "Did Rome Fall" ? Yes. next question. Like I said, garbage in, garbage out. Its a poorly worded topic. Would you have to be more specific? Of course. However, you can easily study the causes of decline in civilizations using any number of criteria and a control groups. Examples that have been studied comparing greeks and romans to modern day civilizations: Rates of disease and methods of sewage treatment; any number of medical treatments, global warming ( barf), immigration patterns, etc, ad nauseum.
Additionally, in an ad hoc study, all events are predictable. And lets be honest...if you didnt think you could identify indicators that an empire would fall (unpopular leadership,unchecked immigration, over regulation, disproportionate tax rates) you probably wouldnt be posting on FR.
My point is, in theory, any topic that can be studied can be studied using the scientific method provided the search area is large enough or the time frame is large enough to provide appropriate data.
28 posted on 05/02/2013 9:16:36 PM PDT by The_Sword_of_Groo (My world view is accurately expressed in the lyrics of " The Fightin' Side of Me")
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To: The_Sword_of_Groo
The Fall of Rome is not reproducible or conducive to controlled experiments; where with ONE Rome you hold everything constant - and with a DIFFERENT Rome you change one variable.

You can study literature as rigorously as you wish - it will not be science. Science is not just rigor. It is a method for gaining reliable information utilizing experimentation and observation to develop useful and predictive models about the natural world.

29 posted on 05/03/2013 8:10:03 AM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send GOP to D.C. to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism)
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To: allmendream
Nobody is saying literature is science. I'm simply saying that you can apply the scientific method of study to any set of quality data. Again, "literature" is way too broad a topic. Either Davinci or newton( I forget which, but I know it was one of Dan Brown's heroes) studied and wrote on the differing influence of Catholicism based on geography.
back to the Rome example, we don't know tht the "fall" of Rome is a one-off event. Much depends on how you define "fall". Economically, militarily, etc. Those things can certainly be studied via scientific method. Again, the history book definition of the fall of Rome is way too broad. There is no hypothesis. You'd have to study the subsets of data and their contribution to the whole
30 posted on 05/03/2013 9:29:36 AM PDT by The_Sword_of_Groo (My world view is accurately expressed in the lyrics of " The Fightin' Side of Me")
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To: The_Sword_of_Groo
History is not science either. Science can be useful to history - in dating things, in analysis of pottery shards, etc. But science is a specific thing, not applicable to NUMEROUS questions, fields of study, etc.

I can understand why things would WANT to be science, to don the mantle of respectability that science has earned - but quite simply no matter how rigorously they study a nonscientific subject - it will not be science.

“Groo never retreats! But he does run away. RUN AWAY!!!”

31 posted on 05/03/2013 10:01:31 AM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send GOP to D.C. to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism)
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To: allmendream
I agree with you...I an not saying that hx is science. I'm also not saying that I agree with much of the so-called science thats out there. we all know that enough grant money will pretty much guarantee whatever outcome you'd like. (See: Climate Change). I'm just saying that, in theory, you can apply the methodology to ( just about) any field of study. You simply have to lower the bar enough to find comparators, either by expanding the search area, timeline, or both. Obviously, the lower bar opens the door to challenge the P values.

I think I should clarify something, because it seem like this is where we are diverging.... Simply studying something using scientific method does not make it a science. I simply mean that the methodology can be utilized in other fields.

"Taste the sword of Groo! One taste per customer!"
32 posted on 05/03/2013 12:27:42 PM PDT by The_Sword_of_Groo (My world view is accurately expressed in the lyrics of " The Fightin' Side of Me")
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To: Kaslin

Obesity is caused by consuming a bunch more calories than you burn, the nutritional value of the food is not very important in that sense. Tell little Timmy to skip the second helping of dinner and ride his bike for half an hour instead of playing X-box and he won’t be so fat.


33 posted on 05/03/2013 11:36:30 PM PDT by Impy (All in favor of Harry Reid meeting Mr. Mayhem?)
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To: Kaslin

34 posted on 05/03/2013 11:54:30 PM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Mater tua caligas exercitus gerit ;-{)
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