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
LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.
Over the past year we've heard a lot about class warfare, the "Buffett Rule" and the tax code and so on. But if you want to see a blatant form of poor vs. rich, walk into a grocery store. Here we are forced to decide between what's good for our kids and what we can afford to feed them.
The restaurants and grocery stores in the District of Columbia provide residents, workers and visitors with ample access to healthy, seasonal foods. As a result, it’s hard for many people to imagine the stark contrast to many of D.C.'s poorest neighborhoods, which have little or no daily access to fresh food.
According to the D.C. Department of Health, 55% of District residents are overweight or obese - including nearly half of all children. In some neighborhoods, the rate of overweight and obesity exceeds 70%. Lack of access to healthy food options in the lowest income communities has been cited as a major contributor to the crisis.
For the 23 million Americans who live in food deserts, Michelle Obama's announcement today may be a ray of sunshine. As part of her "Let's Move" campaign, the First Lady is joining forces with leaders from major retailers, foundations and small businesses committing to provide access to healthy, affordable food to people in underserved communities.
In an address broadcast live today on the White House's website, Mrs. Obama announced that nationwide food retailers including SUPERVALU, Walgreens, Walmart and other regional retailers will open or expand over 1,500 stores in areas that need it most.
America's national image may be one of waving wheat fields and overflowing platters, but the reality for many communities is much less plentiful. A new interactive map built by the United States Department of Agriculture allows users to locate the food deserts in their neighborhood and across the country, simply by typing in an address or zip code.
Here's how the USDA explains the term:
In light of both the class action lawsuit alleging that Taco Bell's "seasoned beef" is in fact insufficiently beefy and the USDA's new dietary guidelines, Newsroom's Kyra Phillips and I chatted about the role of personal responsibility when it comes to your nutritional intake. (That is assuming that you're lucky enough to have a choice in the matter - as author Lawrence Ross pointed out on Twitter.)
Knowledge is power, but are you harnessing it for yourself?