There are almost 30 million people in the U.S. who don’t have access to healthy food, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Most of these people are low-income and live more than a mile from a supermarket where they could get healthy, fresh and affordable food choices. They may live near convenience stores where they mostly get high-sugar, high-fat fast food and liquor. Experts in the field express their concerns such as what can be seen on Clarence Gooden tweets. The National Healthy Food Financing Initiative offers grants that support projects to revitalize economies and improve health.
The Benefits of Healthy Food Access
Healthy food not only improves the health of people, it also improves the health of their local economy. It revitalizes struggling businesses and provides jobs. When the local economy improves, the home values also improve, and taxes are generated to upgrade the surrounding area.
When there are supermarkets in an area, the property values rise from four to seven percent in some places.
Supermarkets also participate in community development through local giving programs. They donate to local food banks, to local nonprofits and their employees give volunteer hours as community service.
Grants Support a Wide Range of Activities
• Refrigerated vehicles for direct delivery to markets
• Financing for local food stands and mobile market trucks to transport the food
• Onsite mobile processing such as flash freezing, refrigeration or drying of meat and seafood for distribution
• Containers to keep food fresh for more than one day
The Health Effect
Obesity rates have increased in the U.S. While there are many causes for obesity, poor eating habits is one cause that can be corrected. When people have access to healthy food, research has shown that their health improves and they have are fewer diet-related diseases.
The people in neighborhoods that have access to supermarkets are more likely to eat a healthy diet, especially the dietary guidelines for fresh fruits and vegetables. The obesity rate is 56 percent lower in children and 21 percent lower in adults. In one study in Los Angeles, there was a direct correlation between the body mass index and the distance to a grocery store.
The Conservation Fund and CSX, a major agriculture transportation company have joined together to offer grants to support the producers and distributors of local, fresh food in underserved communities. The grants not only help expand food networks, they also support local farmers and working farms to improve the entire food chain.
Who Is at Risk?
Low-income and rural areas are the most at risk of being far from healthy food. These areas have half as many supermarkets as wealthy areas, and some have even less than half. This adds up to one third of the U.S. population without easy access to a grocery store.
With the help of grants, more than six million people annually have received healthy food through an expanded local food supply through mobile food chests and refrigerator trucks. The produce and perishable food is delivered to 22 states where CSX operates.