In "the nation's salad bowl," as California's Central Valley is often called, fresh produce grows in abundance.
But for many area residents, healthy food is out of reach.
"Here we are in this agriculturally rich area and yet people who live here and work here are hungry, are impoverished," said Sarah Ramirez, an educator who grew up in the area.
"(Some) are working in the fields that feed the entire country and then they don't have the resources to support them and their health. It's heartbreaking."
For the last two years, Ramirez has been on a mission to build a healthier community in her impoverished hometown of Pixley.
Editor's note: John Bare is vice president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and executive-in-residence at Georgia Tech's Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship.
The movement to eradicate food deserts would benefit from, of all things, banishment of the term food desert.
In a job where I'm seeking innovations that allow more families to have better access to fresh fruits and vegetables, I'm struck that advocates seem mostly interested in mapping and remapping the same neighborhoods to establish conclusive proof that food deserts exist. By the USDA definition, that means documenting "a census tract with a substantial share of residents who live in low-income areas that have low levels of access to a grocery store or healthy, affordable food retail outlet."
The problem is that this approach focuses on diagnosis but not cure. It's as if doctors kept perfecting the test for polio without looking for a vaccine.
For more than a decade, Robin Emmons felt helpless as her older brother lived on the streets, eating out of garbage cans.
She tried repeatedly to get him help for his mental illness, but authorities told her there was nothing they could do.
After he was arrested in 2008 for damaging someone's car during a schizophrenic outburst, she was finally able to become his legal guardian and get him into a halfway house with psychiatric services.
But as she watched his mental health improve, she noticed his physical health getting worse.
"I learned that he was becoming borderline diabetic," she said. "He wasn't like that even when he was homeless."
She investigated and found out that the nonprofit facility was mainly feeding him packaged and canned foods because it couldn't afford fresh fruits and vegetables.
More on food deserts:
"Making groceries" in a New Orleans food desert
The food desert in your own backyard
Class warfare in the grocery aisle
The Capital’s food deserts
Michelle Obama seeks to stamp out food deserts with the help of some grocery giants
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