When you eat unhealthy, processed foods lacking nutrition – say a doughnut – everything seems great at first… But then, your brain gets foggy, energy levels dip and your motivation is zapped as your body deals with what you’ve just supplied it. When these foods become the staple of your diet, they can lead to obesity and disease. Most of us that take an active role in improving our health and overall wellness recognize that nutritious foods are the start to any plan to live with more vitality.
Unfortunately, there’s millions of Americans who don’t even have the option to make a choice toward a nutritious diet due to limited access to these foods. This report from the United States Department of Agriculture points out that over 2.3 million people in the U.S. live more than a mile away from a grocery store, and do not have access to a car. Additionally, as the Food Empowerment Project points out in its report, this statistic is likely an underestimate, as the USDA includes corner convenience stores in its report the same as a grocery store like Safeway or Whole Foods Market. These convenience stores often don’t have fresh fruits and vegetables, and when they do, they can sometimes be priced up to the discretion of the cashier when there’s no displayed price.
Rural counties in which people live more than 10 miles away from a supermarket are called food deserts. There are 418 food deserts scattered throughout the country. This map from the USDA shows where food deserts are concentrated across the country. Obviously, this is a huge issue that needs to be tackled. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables should be a right for everyone – at least giving them a choice to feel great and avoid obesity and diet-related disease.
The Alabama State Senate has just passed the Healthy Food Financing Act (SB260), which would provide loan financing to food retailers to open and expand facilities in low-income urban and rural areas in the state. The bill requires that the retailers allocate at least 30 percent of their store toward perishable foods, which may include fresh or frozen dairy, fresh produce, whole grains, fresh meats, poultry and fish. It also notes that stores must promote the hiring of local residents to help stimulate the economies of these low-income areas. The bill is now set to go to the House for approval before it can be signed into law.
If we are to make any impact on the poverty gap in this country, access to fresh food is one of the very first places to begin. Low-income areas filled with poor-quality food options deepen the cycle of poverty. This bill is a step in the right direction, and may provide valuable data for other states, or even the federal government, to use to take action.
I recently came across a quote: “Give your body what it needs, and watch what it produces.” That pretty much sums it up.