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Thousands of cigarette butts on ground

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No matter where we look around the nation, from the Bronx to Compton, many of these places have similar issues. Neighborhoods of financially and socially disenfranchised communities experience high crime rates, poor housing situations, and particularly food deserts.

Across ethnicities and race, Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the nation and has been since The Great Migration of the 1960s and 70s. In the 53206 zip code on the city’s west side, they are known for having the highest incarceration rate in the country. Out of the 28,840 people who live there, 65 tobacco retailers exist, making 2.3 tobacco retailers for every 1,000 people.

During compliance checks in Milwaukee, over 23% of underage youth were able to purchase tobacco during compliance checks in 2016. Teens are aiming to end this issue with a group called the FACT movement.

“Milwaukee is segregated,” said Destiny, a teen participant in the Neu Life FACT group. “On [our] side of town, you have more junk food and tobacco products being sold to minors. You have to travel all the way to the white side of town to get healthy products and produce like fruits and vegetables.”

The FACT movement was formed in 2001 by 300 Wisconsin teens. Today, the collective has grown to encompass over 5,000 teens who plan awareness events, chalk up their neighborhood sidewalks with statistics on tobacco, and even get to meet with Wisconsin political leaders about the issue.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food deserts are defined as parts of the country devoid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, that are typically found in impoverished areas. These neighborhoods are heavily populated by corner stores and delis that carry a wealth of processed, sugar, and fat-filled foods as well as tobacco products.

You can hear more about what the group is doing in Milwaukee in the video below.