Growing up in Long Beach’s Wrigley area, Senay Kenfe remembers the days when he would take the school bus and be greeted with neon fast food signs at every bus stop.
“I really grew up with the culture of accessibility to the fast food being more prominent than towards more healthier options,” Kenfe said. “Even now there isn’t any healthy options, foodwise.”
There’s a term used by academics to describe an area like that: a food desert. Reportedly originating in Scotland in the early 1990s, the term “food desert” continues to be used to describe areas with poor access to affordable and nutritious food.
The United States Department of Agriculture indicates food deserts based on low-income and low-access minimums:
Low-income: “a poverty rate of 20% or greater, or a median family income at or below 80% of the statewide area median family income;”
Low-access: “at least 500 persons and/or at least 33% of the population lives more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.”
Based on 2015 census data, the USDA indicates high concentrations of food deserts in Central and North Long Beach.
In this video, VoiceWaves dives further into explaining the food desert problem and how Kenfe has sought to be a part of the solution for his community since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Want to see if your neighborhood is in a food desert? Check out the USDA food desert mapping tool.
Christine Jocoy is a professor of geography at California State University, Long Beach. Jocoy’s particular interests are in urban planning, policy and politics related to housing and homelessness, transportation and sustainability. The United States and Southern California are the regional focuses of her work.
Senay Kenfe is a Long Beach community organizer and artist who co-owns Play Nice, a community-oriented concept store and vintage clothing shop.