food desert, food swamp

A food desert is an area, often an urban one, with poor access to food, especially nutritious food and fresh fruits and vegetables. The Oxford English Dictionary has a citation from a 1988 Australian newspaper:

New Caledonia, surely more of a food desert than anything outside five kilometres from the centre of Melbourne.

This citation may be something of an outlier. It refers to the Pacific island of New Caledonia, not an urban area in a developed nation, and it appears some eight years before food desert began to be used in earnest. Plus its use of “more of a” and the lack of quotation marks around the term hint that it is a straightforward metaphor rather than a term of art.

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