But sadly, that same stadium could be filled to capacity more than 12 times over by the 500,000 children living in Atlanta’s food deserts: areas where residents don’t have ease of access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods — and may lack transportation to spots where healthier options are readily available. There are more than 35 such food deserts within the perimeter of Metro Atlanta alone.
Music industry insider Shanti Das grew up in the Peyton Forest section of Southwest Atlanta on Cativo Drive. During her childhood, her family home represented a secure lifestyle. But for its current resident, Deron Pealer, the neighborhood is now one where nutritional disadvantage is a stark daily reality.
Pealer said his local food choices are very limited. “Mostly, it’s just two hamburger joints, a lot of fried foods which is unhealthy, a packaged store…”
That’s a fact Das is hoping to change. “We always showed up and showed out for one another here,” said Das. “So, it’s really incumbent upon us to come back to this neighborhood and make sure that we’re bringing about the change that’s needed so that the healthy lifestyle is there.”
In 2009, Das gave up her very profitable music-industry career to return and try to revitalize her home. “I wanted to really weave myself back into the fabric of the community and the city,” said Das.
Even when Das was growing up, to find healthier options at grocery stores, a fifteen to twenty-minute car trip away from Cativo Drive was necessary. Many people living in food deserts don’t have access to cars, and bus transportation to viable grocery stores can take up an entire day with transfers.
Lack of access to nutritious foods adds up to big health consequences. Heart disease, stroke and risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes are rampant on Cativo Drive. People living just five miles away in neighborhoods with better food choices can expect to live 10 years longer.
As a National Power Ambassador with EmPOWERED to Serve, Das advocates for legislation that supports greater food access and increased physical activity. “I’m so grateful…to come back here and really be a part of this campaign,” said Das. “You guys are really bringing me back home so that I can make a difference.”