February 7, 2014

JAMES TARANTO: ‘Desert’ Aisles: If you build it, they may not come to the produce section.

Poverty used to mean going hungry. These days–at least in the developed West, and especially in America–it means getting hungry, consuming loads of inexpensive carbohydrates, and becoming fat and unhealthy. It’s progress of a sort, but those concerned with social uplift aren’t wrong to see a problem here. But their assumptions about its cause and solution have been tested and found wanting. . . .

It’s not that most “food desert” denizens eat unhealthy food because grocers refuse to supply them with fruits and vegetables. Instead, grocers don’t supply them with fruits and vegetables because the demand is insufficient. Which, come to think of it, was also among the cognitive errors that gave us ObamaCare. The assumption is that if people don’t have insurance, it must be for exogenous reasons–because insurance companies either refuse to do business with them or charge too much.

To be sure, ObamaCare’s architects didn’t completely believe that, or they would not have imposed a “mandate” in the form of a tax on the uninsured. Applying the same logic to the obesity problem would point in the direction of a broccoli mandate.

As far as we know, no one is willing to go quite that far, though The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg did opine in 2012 that a broccoli mandate “doesn’t sound that scary.” Ritger blandly suggests “that access to healthy food needs to be paired with education about consumption.” No more hot chocolate for you, Pajama Boy. #GetDrinking celery juice.

In at least one food desert, Palash Ghosh reports in the International Business Times, the prospect of an oasis was met with not just indifference but suspicion.

Read the whole thing.