According to the White House, 23.5 million Americans currently live in what are known as 'food deserts.' Food deserts are essentially nutritional wastelands that lack reasonable, affordable access to grocery stores. They exist primarily in urban and rural areas of the country, but can be found just about anywhere. And the people who live in them, more often than not, are forced to stock their cupboards with food from the convenience store, or even the drug store.
Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” anti-childhood obesity initiative has set the goal of eliminating all America’s food deserts in the next seven years. But if you’re living in a food desert, you might be wondering what you’re supposed to do until then to stay healthy and eat right.
Janine Whiteson, author of “Cooking Light: What to Eat,” has some ideas. She's a nutritionist who’s visited convenience stores and drug stores in some of New York’s poorest neighborhoods, and she’s found that it’s actually possible to eat healthily in a food desert if you have some practical guidelines.
JANINE’S TIPS FOR SHOPPING FROM THE CONVENIENCE STORE OR DRUG STORE
BLACK BEAN AND TOMATO QUESADILLAS (USING ONLY CONVENIENCE STORE FOODS):
To prepare the quesadillas, preheat the broiler.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and beans; cook 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Place tortillas on a baking sheet coated with a thin layer of olive oil. Top each tortilla with 1/2 cup bean mixture and 3 tablespoons cheese; fold in half. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts and tortillas begin to brown. Cut each tortilla into 3 wedges.
To prepare salsa, combine corn and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with quesadillas.
TUNA PUTTANESCA (USING ONLY FOOD FROM WALGREENS)
Sauté tuna with canned tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients until the mixture starts simmer. Boil the pasta al dente. Drain the pasta and add the tuna with tomatoes mixture. Sprinkle parmesan cheese to taste.