Overall health in communities is dependent on a food system that supports access to affordable, healthy and sustainably produced foods. Such a food system is essential in low-income communities that are surrounded by food deserts (lack of access to healthy food) or food swamps (over-abundance of cheap, unhealthy foods), or are negatively affected by food production methods in their communities.
According to the USDA website, “a lack of access to fresh, healthy foods can contribute to poor diets and higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases. Food access is about more than just whether there are grocery stores in a community. It also has to do with whether households can afford to purchase food –and affordability is closely related to rates of employment and job quality. Increasing food access nationwide can help address the problems of unemployment and lack of access to healthy food simultaneously. When underserved communities connect with regional producers and food businesses – farmers’ markets, mobile produce vendors, farm to school initiatives, food hubs and other community-based methods for selling local food – the connection expands marketing opportunities, drives the growth of new local businesses and jobs, and increases food access.”
According to the 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report, in 2012, 29.1 million people or 9.3% of the population have diabetes. Of that figure, 21.0 million have been diagnosed, while 8.1 million or 27.8% are undiagnosed. (Report)
According to the American Heart Association’s 2013 update, 23.9 million children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese; of which 33.0% are boys and 30.4% are girls. Of these children, 12.7 million are obese; of which 18.6% are boys and 15.0% are girls. Among Americans age 20 and older, 154.7 million are overweight or obese: 79.9 million men and 74.8 million women. Of these, 78.4 million are obese: 36.8 million men and 41.6 million women. (http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_319588.pdf
“We know that a lot of things contribute to poor nutrition and obesity but access is a key issue,” says Dr. Giridhar Mallya of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “People don’t have the ability to get healthy foods in their community at an affordable price. That makes it that much harder for them to be healthy overall.”
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) website, “Many areas, especially in Arizona, do not have easy access to large grocers, which sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Community members may be less likely to consume a diet high in fruits and vegetables if these foods are not readily accessible. Additionally, some communities may not have accessible public transportation or even affordable healthcare options nearby. Accessibility may act as a barrier to communities for living healthy lives. Accessibility can be influenced by both community design and by transportation.”
“The simple fact is that the less affluent do not live close to high-quality foods as do the more affluent, writes Barbara McCann in a paper for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Instead they tend to be surrounded by an overabundance of unhealthy choices…But there are many options.”