Key Point

About 140,000 (17%) individuals in our community struggle to find affordable, fresh produce.

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Let’s Break It Down

People living below the poverty line are three times more likely to have difficulty accessing affordable, healthy foods.

While overall, 17% of individuals in our community lack access to healthy foods, the percentage significantly increases when looking at those living below the poverty line. In the metro area, 37% (84,215) of people living below the poverty line do not have access to affordable, healthy food (produce, fresh meat, fresh milk and eggs, etc.) compared to only 10% (47,531) for those earning more than $47,700 for a family of 4. This means that our low-income neighbors are 3 times more likely to struggle to find affordable, fresh produce than our higher income neighbors.

The USDA measures access by food deserts – areas (census tracts) where at least 1 in 5 people are living below the poverty line and at least one third of people are more than a mile from the nearest grocery store. A closer look at food deserts helps us understand access to healthy foods in our community.

Why Does It Matter?

Lack of access to nutritious foods can have a negative impact on a person's overall health.

Not being able to access healthy foods may result in using cheaper, less nutritious options that can lead to becoming overweight, developing chronic diseases, or shortening one’s lifespan.

The Omaha-Council Bluffs metro has a high concentration of food deserts—specifically in the northeast and southeast sections of Omaha, and western portions of Council Bluffs. These areas typically have a much higher unemployment rate, high poverty, and a greater percentage of people who receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

SNAP is a federal program that works with states to provide monetary assistance for individuals and families who qualify to purchase food. It is important to remember that even though people may have access to SNAP, they may live in a food desert and not have the necessary transportation to get to a store that provides healthy, affordable food. Also, many low-income families may be juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet and may not have the time to cook healthy meals.

How Do We Compare?

We have a higher percentage of people living in food deserts than the national average.

9% (80,568) of our neighbors in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro are living in a food desert. Comparatively, 4% of Americans (13.6 million) live in food deserts.

Data Source: 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment (geographic area includes Douglas, Sarpy, Cass and Pottawattamie Counties) & US Census Bureau American Community Survey 2014 5 Year Estimate, Tables S2301 & S2201

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