Florence Group Searches for a Way Out of The (Food) Desert

Elizabeth Kizer, a doctoral student studying public health, with a committee and a group of volunteers has done research into the healthy food choices at Florence’s restaurants and stores. She presented her findings with interested groups last week. Florence restaurants averaged a score of 12 out of a possible 63 points. The stores scored no better, with an average score of 7 out of a possible 30 points.

Even before Kizer and her group conducted the research, they knew Florence was in trouble. Pinal County ranks 13th out of Arizona’s 15 counties in terms of the health of the physical environment. Also much of Florence is considered a “food desert” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This means much of the population is low income and has low access to a supermarket.

They found Florence’s youth are eating unhealthy as well. They instructed three female high school students to take pictures of the food they eat at lunch. The group found 40 percent of the foods in the pictures were sugar-sweetened foods, 19 percent were processed foods, and only about 10 percent of the foods were fresh foods.

Kizar’s group found there are many Florence residents who are concerned about lack of healthy food choices and are in favor of improving their nutrition environment. Florence residents generally would like to establish a farmers’ market, expand healthy menu items at existing restaurants, and start a student-supported eatery. Kizer showed the lack of healthy food choices in Florence, and some ways it could be dealt with.

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