Report categorizes areas in Bay County as "food deserts"

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - In a desert west of Panama City, you may not find tumbleweeds and cacti but you may notice a lack of healthy food options.

Tuesday, customers walked in and out of the Grocery Outlet in Springfield.

Some in the area say the outlet is an oasis in what's being called a "food desert."

"Because the next grocery store, you gotta go way down there [to] Piggly Wiggly on Beck Avenue and if you go out to Tyndall Parkway next thing you got Winn-Dixie," Samantha Boyd, a local said.

The United States Department of Agriculture's website features a map showing food deserts, or areas where fresh and healthy foods are hard to come by.

Parts of Cedar Grove, Springfield, and Callaway area highlighted on the map. Areas of Washington, Calhoun, and Jackson counties are also featured on the map.

The American Nutrition Association reports food deserts are usually populated with quickie marts and other places with processed, sugary, and fatty foods.

"A lot of people go to the Dollar Store just to get something quick, canned goods or something you can put in the microwave," Boyd explained. "You just have to do what you can do to survive."

Another factor that makes up a food desert is a person's inability to get to where the healthy foods are located.

"It's really hard for people that don't have transportation. There's nothing really in the area and if there is something you pretty much can't afford it," Boyd said.

Some say educating people about making healthy eating choices could spark a change.

With the demand for fresh foods could come suppliers.

"I just think that you know, reading, studying, getting taught in school, growing produce," Julia Ahmed, a Callaway local said, "you know, farmers market's these are all... that's important."

"I just wish that more stuff would come here, they would bring more stuff to Panama City. Think about the elderly people here that don't have transportation, can't get around," Boyd said.

Other reports show a socio-economic factor with food deserts, stating you're more likely to find them in minority communities and low-income areas.

According to the Food Empowerment Project, studies show wealthy neighborhoods have three times as many supermarkets as poor ones do.