While learning about food system environments, I realized that I have definitely taken my upbringing in relation to a healthy food environment for granted. I grew up with a farm-girl as a mother who enjoyed cooking, had the goal of making her meals colorful, and had the means to provide fresh, healthy food options. For me, the healthy choice was the easy choice. But as shown in the Food Trust video(1) and the Policy Link (2) webinar, access to healthy food options is a huge barrier for some people and definitely plays a significant role in the obesity epidemic of America. Current research shows that 30 million American’s in low-income areas have limited access to supermarkets, and when people live in close proximity to a good food source, they have lower BMI, less risk for obesity, and an increase in fruit and vegetable intake(2). America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, but if we do not ensure good access to good food for everyone, the only opportunity we are giving is the ability to eat more processed and low-nutritional foods.
Some communities may not be able to afford or sustain a new grocery store or supermarket, but if local communities come together and partner with local farmers, great things can happen. One example of getting fresh foods to a community is the Waupaca County Community Gardens. This community has realized the importance of fresh foods and have come together to develop a sustainable, community-led garden that provides fresh produce to food pantries. Not only does this improve community engagement and education around healthy foods, but it provides an incredible resource to those who may not have the access to fresh foods (3). Another great way to improve access to a local community is for the expansion of farmers’ markets and improved payment methods. Many low-income families depend on EBT for their food purchases while they are struggling to combat obesity. In Wisconsin, when EBT acceptance expands to farmers’ markets, not only can it help the local economy, but it has been shown to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and improve nutritional education(4).
Having food security may be something that many of us take for granted, but for some, this may be their biggest barrier in their fight against obesity. Communities need to realize this and partner together to expand access to healthy food to everyone. Not only can this improve the local community’s health, but it can foster the true meaning of community and working together for the good of everyone.
1. The Food Trust: Everyone Deserves Access. Accessed 10/9/14.
2. New Research to Help You Expand Healthy Food Access in Your Community (Webinar). Access 10/9/14.
3. Waupaca Community Garden. Accessed 10/9/14
4. Farmer’s Market Infographic. DHS of Wisconsin.