A recent report from the California-based Food Empowerment Project shows vast disparities in the availability of healthy food options among high and low-income communities in Santa Clara County. According to the report, lower-income communities and communities of color have half as many large supermarkets per capita as do higher-income areas. The lack of access to fruits, vegetables, and plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products in these communities has important public health consequences’particularly in the prevalence of type-2 diabetes and obesity.
Among the recommendations issued by the Food Empowerment Project/FEP (Brighter Green’s Mia MacDonald serves on the FEP board) is the clarification of the federal North American Industry Classification System, which at present considers small retail outlets as grocery stores, even if they do not offer fruits or vegetables and sell mostly alcohol and junk food. This current system of classification obscures the reality of available food options, making it harder for policy-makers and activists to identify true areas of need.
Where the federal government and supermarket industry are failing, farmers’ markets are increasingly stepping up. The New York Times ran an article this morning on the Roosevelt Community Farmers’ Market, an initiative that seeks to create access to fresh fruits and vegetables and provide residents with healthy alternatives to junk food. Corn, broccoli, eggplant, collard greens, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro were available last weekend, as was free information from visiting nutritionists. The great success of the market, which nearing the end of its first season, has seen weekend sales rise from $260 to $1,400, is proof that low-income communities value fresh, healthy options, and if access is created, will respond.
Photo courtesy of Jill Clardy