heather-ellis-banksOn this Thanksgiving Day, we are thankful for the things we have.  We generally celebrate Thanksgiving by eating a large meal to include meat and vegetables.  Our local radio station had a radio program on this week and discussed what are called Food Deserts prompting me to research it a little.

What is a Food Desert?

The USDA defines a food desert as a part of the country without access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and other healthful whole foods.  These so-called “deserts” are due to a lack in access to grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and other providers of more healthy foods.

Where Are Food Deserts?

These areas include rural and urban areas.  These areas are usually defined as low-income meaning the poverty rate is at least 20% in the area.  These areas are also usually defined by low access to a supermarket or large grocery store which is defined as more than a mile in urban areas and more than 10 miles in rural areas.  Within these food deserts, you often will find quick foods like fast food locations and convenience stores that mostly sell processed and high sugar and high-fat content foods.

What About the New Farm Bill?

As part of the radio program that discussed Food Deserts, it mentioned the new Farm Bill going through Congress right now and one of the more controversial parts of it that will cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to many Americans.  The radio program discussed locally how this might impact our area.  East Tennessee and the Appalachian Region have rural food deserts.

In many of our rural counties, residents rely on SNAP benefits but still do not receive enough to buy all the food they need.  The new Farm Bill seeks to extend 20 hours per week work requirement or job training requirement to adults with no dependents from age 18-49 up to 18-59 and also add the work/job training requirement those with children over 6 years old.  The bill stiffens the penalties for failing to report the required hours just once to mean the family would lose the benefits for a year.

Where this can be an issue is with many of the seasonal workers who live and work around Sevier County.  They often have little to no income in January and February each year and would most likely not be able to find a short-term job enabling them to meet the 20 hours per week work requirement.  Many of these seasonal workers would lose their SNAP benefits.  So, in an area already plagued with food deserts, a reduction in SNAP benefits may make access to food even more aloof.

Contact Us for Financial Assistance

On this day for thankfulness, I am very fortunate to have a large delicious meal.  Not everyone has plenty to eat.  As a consumer bankruptcy attorney, I talk with folks who tell me they are hungry.  They are embarrassed and scared.  I often wish I had a magic wand to make everything right in the world.  I and the other attorneys at Bond & Botes can help with debt problems.  Please contact us for a free consultation.

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