Call them “food deserts” no more. Areas of Baltimore where residents don't have ready access to healthy, affordable food are now to be known as “healthy food priority areas.”
While the new name might be much less evocative, Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday that the new term is more accurate.
“There has been an evolving conversation both in Baltimore and nationally,” she said. “ ‘Deserts’ implies there is no food, when actually there is an imbalance between healthy and unhealthy foods.”
A new study released by the city and researchers at the Johns Hopkins University concluded that 146,077 city residents live in such areas — 23.5 percent of the population. A total of 124,521 of them are African-American.
To be deemed a priority area, a neighborhood must rank poorly in a measure of food store quality, have a low median income, have more than 30 percent of households without cars and be more than a quarter-mile from a supermarket.
Officials plan to continue to looking for more ways to make healthy food more widely accessible. An eight-point plan includes working with corner stores and public markets, looking at transportation problems and listening to residents about what they want.