The Future of Food Part 9: Food Deserts and Food Mountains

The USDA defines a food desert as those “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers”.  Food Deserts arise for a variety of reasons. They’re often found in low-income areas that are considered unattractive locations for supermarkets and specialty stores to invest in. With the demise of greengrocers over the last 10-15 years, and the fact that 40% of Americans don’t have cars, healthy food choices are no longer available to residents who live within certain communities. Instead their options tend to be processed foods, or fast foods. As such, food deserts have become a large problem, helping to fuel the obesity and diabetes epidemics. 

Urban agriculture is one response to combating food deserts. Instead of the usual acres of land for crops, people grow fruit and vegetables on roofs or on a plot in their community.

Urban agriculture

The analysis of food deserts becomes more complicated when we recognize that in many countries, including America, are also experiencing huge food surpluses, most recently in cheese and meat. US dairy producers now have a 1.39 billion-pound surplus of cheese, and 2.5 billion-pound surplus of meat, a “mountain of chicken, beef and turkey”. In fact figures from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers show that half of the word’s food is thrown away. With the United Nations predicting that there will be an extra 3 billion mouths to feed by the end of the century, there is growing pressure to launch urgent action to tackle this waste. 


It is estimated that 800 million people live in hunger. But the problem is not having enough food to go around. In India there are 68 million tones of rice and wheat in stock, more than twice what stocking norms require.  Beyond this, milk production has also been increasing at four times the rate of the country’s population growth. This is also true of potatoes. Over the last decade their production has increased by 80%. The result is farmers are forced to get rid of surplus products, often simply leaving them out in the open to rot.

These vast surpluses of food have led many researchers to posit ways in which excess food produce could be used to help address the problem of food deserts. In 2018 Flashfood and Tyson partnered to fight food waste by offering customers boxes of surplus food through a program called ‘flashfoodbox’.  

In 2019 and beyond food manufactures are always striving to eliminate waste and unproductive actions in their production process. To learn more about how ERP can reduce waste in the fresh food industry, please get in touch.