Enhancing Access to Healthy Food

By Chardae Heim A ccording to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California is the world’s largest supplier of food and agriculture. In fact, the state grows 60 percent of the country’s fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. However, despite California’s agricultural abundance, food deserts still exist in underserved communities in the state. A food desert, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is the scarcity of fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy whole foods in underserved communities—such as low- income neighborhoods, communities of color and low density rural areas—due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other healthy food providers. To qualify as a food desert, at least one-third of the population in an area must live more than one mile from a supermarket; in rural areas, this distance must be more than ten miles. While it seems like an easy fix, building a supermarket is only a small portion of the solution. Factors such as lack of transportation, an overwhelming amount of convenience stores and a rise in fast food chains also make this problem far more complex. As the existence of food deserts continue to grow, many

people and organizations have stepped up to take on the task of helping solve this food crisis. Fixing Food Deserts Let’s Move! , a campaign initiated by former First Lady Michelle Obama, was launched in 2010 to fight childhood obesity. “The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake,” said Obama in a White House press release announcing the campaign’s launch. “This isn’t the kind of problem that can be solved overnight, but with everyone working together, it can be solved.” In addition to providing healthier food in schools and helping kids become more physically active, this initiative also gave parents information on fostering environments that encouraged healthier choices. The nutrition movement that resulted from the Let’s Move! campaign still resonates with communities throughout the nation. While promoting Let’s Move!, Obama also pioneered the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), which supplies grocers with grants, loans and other monetary incentives to open stores

18   Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com   SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019

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