Food Insecurity and Farmer’s Markets

It’s 7 p.m. on a Tuesday evening – do you know what you’re going to eat for dinner? I’m looking forward to raiding my kitchen for bell peppers, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and a large slice of naan – all the ingredients necessary for what I like to call lazy college student pizza. I usually don’t think twice about the food that goes into my meals, but I recently watched a documentary about food insecurity that changed my perspective on food access in the U.S.

A Place at the Table provides an important perspective on the economic, social and cultural ramifications of food insecurity in the United States. Before watching the documentary I was completely unaware of the fact that one in four children in the U.S. don’t know where their next meal will come from. While issues of poverty and food insecurity generally remind us of hungry faces in developing countries, fifty million U.S. citizens fight an uphill battle against hunger every day.

Image obtained from http://www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table
Image obtained from http://www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table

Ironically, one of the major consequences of food insecurity is obesity. People struggling with food insecurity face extremely limited options when it comes to buying groceries. Consequently, they have little other option than to invest in inexpensive, high calorie foods. A diet of potato chips and ramen noodles may be cheap, but the connection between processed meals and illnesses such as obesity have ominous implications for the health of our nation.

We are what we eat. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/John Gress.
We are what we eat! Photo courtesy of REUTERS/John Gress.

In addition to having a higher cost, healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables are simply harder to find in low-income neighborhoods. Major grocery stores that stock nutritious food tend to be located farther away from low-income neighborhoods, making it difficult for families to reach them if they don’t have access to a car. The little corner groceries that are easily accessible often have little to offer in the way of fresh produce. Strategies such as New York City’s Healthy Bodegas Initiative have begun to increase access to healthy food in low-income neighborhoods, but our cities and communities still have a long way to go if we want to end food insecurity.

The difference between healthy options in a large supermarket and a small corner grocery are clear. Photo courtesy of http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/picturing-hunger-in-america/
The difference between healthy options in a large supermarket and a small corner grocery are clear. Photo courtesy of http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/picturing-hunger-in-america/

How can you help ensure that every U.S. citizen has a place at the table? An easy, fun way to make healthy food more accessible is to shop at your local farmer’s market! You will not only enjoy delicious fruits and veggies, but you will also support local farmers, who can provide low-income residents with access to healthy food at an affordable price. Many farmer’s markets, such as Charlottesville’s City Market accept SNAP (food stamp) benefits, and they are usually located in areas that are walkable or accessible by public transportation. Tackling food insecurity, supporting local farmers, and purchasing outrageously scrumptious food all in one go – sounds like a great way to spend a Saturday morning to me!

Hooray for affordable fruit and veg! Photo courtesy of http://www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table
Hooray for affordable fruit and veg! Photo courtesy of http://www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table

Want to learn more? Check out these links:

Links between Hunger and Obesity – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/nyregion/14hunger.html?_r=0

Connecting childhood hunger and poor health – http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2008240,00.html

How you can make a difference – http://actioncenter.takepart.com/apatt/actions/zip/22903

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