Winne takes a look at America's food system, using his 35+years of experience as a worker in food banks, community gardens, farms, and policy-making boards. The basic problem is one of poverty. There are fewer food choices the poorer you get, and the food itself has ever-decreasing nutritional value. Hunger is a problem in America, but poor nutrition is an even worse one--heart disease, diabetes, and the health risks due to obesity are increasing every year.
Food deserts: "This shortage of supermarkets means that poor residents must travel out of their neighborhoods to purchase food, or shop at more expensive corner and convenience stores with less selection and poor quality food. The insufficient access...reduces the purchasing power of neighborhood residents, and may exacerbate long-term health problems resulting from nutritionally inadequate diets."--the Food Trust.
Food deserts are caused because poor areas are less profitable, more dangerous, and too crowded for the huge scale that most chains work in nowadays. Food deserts are not just a problem in terms of limited, expensive access to nutrition, but also because the money city residents would have spent in the city is instead spent in the suburbs. Thus the suburbs get even more money, and the city is left with even less, worsening the cycle. Supermarkets provide access to quality food--and are also big employers, pay property taxes, keeps food-purchasing dollars in the area. Three methods of addressing food deserts: create a food co-op owned by the neighborhood; create the food co-op but leave ownership and operation to an ouside supermarket firm; advocate and agitate for city and supermarket industry to respond to neighborhood's needs (generally by using public funds to decrease risks associated with supermarket development in lower income areas, or improve public transit to get to supermarkets). Then there are ideas like the Farmer's Market Nutrition Programs which give coupons to low-income families to use at farmers' markets--which leads to increased consumption of fresh produce, plus increased money to farmers, who spend money in-state.
The basic question this book asks is how to create a food system that is good for famers, the environment, and consumers?
I recommend looking at my status updates while reading this book--some of the figures Winne quotes about poverty and food insecurity blew my mind.