Food for Thought
In a recent article entitled “The New Face of Hunger,” National Geographic reported on the expansion of food deserts, which are places where people live “more than half a mile from a supermarket and don’t own a car, because of poverty, illness, or age.” These deserts often exist in communities that are economically disadvantaged. Without nearby supermarkets and because fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than processed foods, many people have no access to healthier food choices. They then suffer from diet-related diseases such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.
Recognition of the public health costs that stem from limited access to healthy food has spurred a series of partnerships often involving government and philanthropic institutes that have offered real solutions. New York City’s Green Cart program, launched in 2008, is an innovative and growing initiative that allows cart vendors to sell fresh fruits and vegetables in areas where access to fresh produce is limited. At the same time, it offers urban and immigrant entrepreneurs a chance at a viable small business opportunity.
Other projects, such as the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, encourage convenience store owners to carry fresh food by providing funding for refrigeration and storage solutions. They also host in-store cooking demonstrations and education about nutrition, and aim to establish relationships between store owners and local farmers.
Here in the Lower Mainland, Quest Food Exchange provides access to affordable food in areas where people might not otherwise find it. Farmers, wholesalers, and supermarkets donate their surplus food to Quest, and the nonprofit redistributes it to clients of local social service agencies through not-for-profit grocery stores. They also deliver food to agencies for use in their own meal programs.
All of these creative initiatives are rooted in the belief that every person deserves access to healthy food. These ideas require new partnerships to succeed, but ultimately result in new opportunities and solutions that are making a difference in people’s lives.
[Top Image: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation]