Food Desert

Watering Food Deserts

Food Desert

Food is essential for life, and healthy food is essential for a successful life. Eating a healthy diet keeps us out of hospitals and where we belong, home with friends and family. According to the 2017 Annual Resident Survey, more than 35% of Mercy Housing Southwest residents experienced food insecurity last year. This number is as high as 80% at some properties in Arizona. Moreover, hospitalization rates for our Arizona residents were above average.

With most of Mercy Housing Southwest residents living in greater Phoenix, they’re susceptible to the scarcity of ‘food deserts’—areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Very few have their own transportation, and it’s dangerous for them to walk to stores in Arizona’s notoriously high temperatures. Residents are low-income seniors, living with disabilities, and often have experienced homelessness.

“Our residents shouldn’t walk when temperatures reach 115 degrees; it’s unsafe for them to even be outside,” explains Karen Blackbird, Resident Services Manager.

Lemon Grove Place is located in a neighborhood with a high rate of homelessness and few vital commercial resources like grocery stores. The resident services coordinator is working to establish a community garden or container garden to provide fresh produce for residents.

“Having a garden at the properties will provide fresh vegetables and herbs, allowing us to teach them how to incorporate these items into their diets,” says Blackbird.

Mercy Housing Southwest combats the challenges associated with food deserts by partnering with local food providers, such as St. Anne’s Food Bank, St. Mary’s Food Pantry, United Food Bank, and Meals on Wheels. All our Resident Services staff are trained in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and ensure residents take advantage of this valuable resource.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Donate to help get our residents access healthy food. Click here!