GA cancer center study shows ties between food swamps and cancer

Published: May. 21, 2023 at 11:42 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - There can be some truth to the saying “there’s too much of a good thing.” One of the issues our community tries to relieve every year is food insecurity by collecting healthy food, but what happens when a city is a food swamp?

The term food desert is well known- but you could be confusing it with the term food swamp.

According to researchers at the Georgia Cancer Center, a food swamp is an area where there is an overabundance of fast food options, but a lack of fresh nutritious food for those who live there. Augusta’s food swamp issue goes past Washington Road and gets worse downtown.

Burgers, fries, fried chicken, you name it. They’re all scattered in Augusta’s medical district, especially on Walton Way.

“I think it’s, it’s more like fast food than anything around,” Augusta neighbor Damien Demmons said.

There’s an assortment of fast options, but the nearest grocery stores are 1 to 6 miles away.

Making these fast food options not only closer to home, but Damien Demmons says, more accessible too.

“It’s so easy to just go to the restaurant, but if a grocery store was closer, it’d be easier to just go to the store,” he said.

It’s an issue doctors at the Georgia cancer center say is driving up the odds of cancer-related deaths.

“Counties that had poor food swamp scores or the highest scores, or basically with the poorest food swamp environments had a 77% increased odds of having high obesity related cancer mortality rates,” Dr. Malcolm Bevel said.

According to the CDC obesity-related cancers make up 40% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. every year. Dr. Bevel says it all boils down to options.

“I’m witnessing people in the community having to choose between do I get even a bag veggie versus do I just go to McDonald’s and get something off the dollar menu or do I go get the four for four?,” he said.

But what are the possible solutions? Dr. Samantha  jones says it may take some help from the government.

“A possible solution would be for the government to step in and to somehow subsidize,” she said.

For people in Augusta like Damion, more accessible healthy options could lead to more healthy choices.

In the downtown area, one accessible option to fresh, nutritious foods is The Hub and Augusta Locally Grown. They provide:

  • Augusta Vegetable Prescription Program
  • Veggie Park Farmers Markets
  • Cooking Classes
  • Community Gardens
  • Kitchen Incubator

They also have a veggie farmer’s market every Thursday from 3:30-7p at 624 Chafee Avenue, Augusta, GA 30904.