The African-American-oriented website News One ranks Memphis No. 4 on its list of "America's Worst 9 Urban Food Deserts," amplifying a concern that has been gaining prominence lately in Memphis. Despite recent efforts -- both community and legislative -- to increase access to healthful food in underserved areas, Memphis has a long way to go: As the New One story points, Memphis last year was rated America's hungriest city in one survey. Surrounding rural areas fare no better.
As of 2010 a Gallup poll ranked Tennessee second in the nation for states lacking access to healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods. The poll also ranked Memphis #1 for hunger in the country with a startling 26 percent of people in the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area saying they couldn't afford to buy food for their families in the last 12 months. "What we know about Tennessee is that almost 13 percent of the census tracts are considered food deserts, both in inner-city urban areas as well as rural areas," Ellen Holtzman head of Tennessee's Food Trust. A 2010 Mid-South Food Bank survey found that 83 percent of those served by the bank had to choose between buying food and paying utilities. And 32 percent had to choose between buying food and paying rent or mortgage.