Why is Living in a Food Desert Bad for You & Your Budget?

Food Desert

Food shopping for the holidays can get a little dicey. It’s the busiest time for grocery stores, so you’ll be competing with other hungry shoppers as you nab everyone’s favorite treats and check for allergens. 

All that can take an advanced degree in planning, and that’s before you start thinking about the cost of hosting the season’s big meal. 

While inflation is causing everyone’s groceries to go up, your holiday grocery bill might be harder to swallow if you live in one of Indiana’s many food deserts.  

What is a Food Desert? 

According to the Food Empowerment Project, a food desert is an area with no convenient, affordable, or healthy food sources. Roughly 24 million Americans currently call a food desert home, many of whom are Black, low-income, and urban dwellers. 

In an urban city center like Indianapolis, Indiana’s state capital, nearly one-quarter of people (23%) live in a food desert. 

Plenty of obstacles stand in the way of getting groceries when you live in a food desert. Maybe you can’t walk the distance to your nearest grocery store. If you work more than one job, you might not be able to spare the extra time it takes to get there by transit. 

Why a Food Desert Makes Your Life Harder

A food desert isn’t just inconvenient; it’s expensive. Here’s why:

1. Groceries Eat up More of Your Finite Budget

When you’re paying more to fill your fridge, there’s a good chance your money isn’t stretching as far as you need.

Many people living paycheck to paycheck have to put savings on pause while they focus on affording food. They may even withdraw from an emergency fund to put food on the table. 

What happens if an unexpected car repair or medical expense comes your way after you drain your savings? In an emergency, you can try to borrow online in Indiana with a line of credit to handle these expenses. 

An IN line of credit can provide backup in a one-time emergency, but it’s not an option for ongoing grocery bills. 

2. Eating Healthy Comes at a Premium 

Food deserts are rapidly spreading in gentrifying neighborhoods, where costly health food stores like Whole Foods replace formerly inexpensive grocery stores.

Also known as “Whole Paycheck,” Whole Foods (and other premium stores like it) can be unaffordable for low-income individuals. 

As a result, eating healthy comes with a tax for those living in food deserts. Accessing fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, and dairy costs more. 

This winter, the challenges of eating healthfully in a food desert are compounded record-high inflation driving up the prices everywhere. 

When faced with these challenges, most people resort to whatever is easiest, and in a food desert, that’s fast food or convenience stores. 

Opting for less healthy options might help stretch your budget, but you’re less likely to hit your nutritional needs for the day this way. You’re more likely to get sick when you aren’t eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients, so your chances of paying unexpected prescriptions and doctor’s fees on a line of credit are also on the rise.

Bottom Line:

Living in a food desert is hard on both your health and your wallet. If you don’t have easy access to fresh and affordable food, focus on saving where you can and reach out to your local food bank for help.


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