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Ark-La-Tex In Depth: Fighting Food Deserts - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Ark-La-Tex In Depth: Fighting Food Deserts

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SHREVEPORT, La. -

Fresh produce, meats, dairy -- all pieces of the grocery shopping puzzle you probably don't think twice about.

But what if you didn't have them at all?

"It's difficult to get there, if they don't have a car. It might be difficult to get to a grocery store with fresh produce available," says Donna Curtis, with Shreveport Green.

Curtis is talking about food deserts, an odd name for a very serious problem.

Food deserts, according to the CDC, are areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.

In overfed America, it's a phenomenon that can be tough to imagine, but one that hits close to home, and has dire consequences.

"Obesity and diabetese are huge problems we've got in Louisiana," says Curtis.

 Lack of access is just one dilemma associated with food deserts.

Knowledge of how to prepare it is something Curtis and her team at Shreveport Green are working to change through their community garden program.

"You want to build up the community, get the people interested, get the people to understand why it's necessary, why it's more nutritious."

And the area's youngest residents are often those who are most affected by the food desert epidemic.

To help combat hunger among area youth, dozens of organizations, like Project Love Church on Fairfield Ave. in Shreveport, are participating in summer feeding programs.

"We're helping to make sure they get balanced meals Monday through Friday," says Project Love Feeding Program Coordinator, Melissa Harris.

And Harris says it's not just a well-balanced meal these kids are digesting.

"Learn how to sit down and eat. They get the opportunity to make new friends over a meal, which is always a good thing to do."

Harris says without the bonding time over a meal, kids are often left without crucial communication and social skills.

"Eating is the most important time you can do a lot over food and it teaches them family values. It teaches them, we may not be able to sit down at my house and do things but I know I'm gonna sit down here and we're going to talk, we're going to eat and it's just going to be a good fellowship."

And though identifying food deserts isn't an exact science, treating the obesity and heart disease associated with an unhealthy diet is - just another reason Shreveport Green won't give up the fight.

"We think so much in the immediate future, that right now, we need to concentrate on getting food at an available price," Curtis says.

The Summer Food Service Program provides meals that meet federal nutrition guidelines and are provided to children 18 years and under at approved feeding sites.

For a complete list of participating Summer Food Service Program organizations, click here.

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