A report out of Loyola University in New Orleans says Louisiana has the second highest rate of food insecurity in the country, a result of the state’s substantial poverty rate, and proliferation of food deserts where residents don’t have access to, or can't afford healthy food. Jesuit Social Research Institute Director Father Fred Kammer says food deserts can be found in urban and rural areas.

“It’s harder for grocers who have a fairly narrow margin to survive in areas where there are not a lot of people who can access them. So the rural parts of the state suffer from food deserts, as do parts of our cities.”

New Orleans and Baton Rouge were noted for having large food deserts.

Kammer says the existence of those food deserts exacerbates the already extensive pressures placed on Louisiana’s poorest residents.

“Obesity and other health conditions are created in part by a lack of healthy foods. So that would then effect a person’s ability to work and earn a living for themselves and their family.”

The report noted that equal access to quality food is also an issue in Louisiana along racial lines, where African Americans are already disproportionately affected by poverty. Kammer says you are more likely to find food deserts in low income, minority neighborhoods.

“There is a disparate effect of the food desert reality on people of color, not only in our state, but nationally. This is a national trend.”

The report calls for the state to increase incentives for grocery stores to operate in under-served communities, including refrigeration tax breaks for small grocers to allow them to bring in healthier food.

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