Vegetable soup, pot roast, zucchini bread, fried apples, roasted butternut squash, potato onion tart, eggplant parmesan – I recently pulled out my recipes and made plans to cook up some of the sweet, savory, satisfying flavors of fall. My grocery list is full of fresh ingredients, herbs and spices that go into making memorable meals that will fill my family with healthy food. My favorite farmer’s market will supply a lot of what’s on my list and I can always head to my neighborhood grocery for the rest.
I never spent much time thinking about where to shop for or how to afford the food my family enjoys. Like most people, I dislike the hassle of driving to the grocery or farmer’s market and lugging everything into the house. Other than that, preparing healthy meals and spending family time around the table are some of the best parts of daily life.
My perspective on food access has changed, however, as I work on Finance Fund’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative aimed at getting more healthy affordable fresh food retailers into underserved communities across Ohio. Each time I pick up a bag of apples, slice a pepper, toss a salad or reach for the milk, I think about families who can’t easily get to a grocery store because it’s a taxi cab ride or three bus transfers away. Or can’t afford fresh food on a limited budget or outside of SNAP or WIC benefits. Or have no idea how to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables for their family. Instead, many people eat a high-fat, high-sodium diet of processed foods available at local corner stores – or fast food that’s inexpensive and easy to access in their neighborhood.
Close to one million Ohioans live in the crucible of greatest need — at the intersection of high rates of diet-related death, low-income, and poor access to supermarkets according to findings of Finance Fund’s statewide Food Study, conducted by The Food Trust with support from the Ohio Regional Convergence Partnership.
Caroline Harries, from The Food Trust, and I shared details of the Food for Every Child report at a recent statewide coalition meeting sponsored by the Philanthropy Ohio Health Initiative. Dr. Andrew Wapner, chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), was also on the agenda and presented Ohio’s Plan to Prevent and Reduce Chronic Disease: 2014 – 2018. The plan notes that chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers are the leading causes of death and disability in Ohio. Associated risk factors such as obesity, tobacco use, inactivity and poor nutrition are driving more than $50 billion annually in healthcare costs and lost work productivity. The ODH plan strives to prevent more than 600,000 new cases of diet-related disease by:
- Increasing access to healthy food
- Increasing physical activity
- Encouraging preventive health screenings
Finance Fund is helping by creating a statewide fund that will better enable healthy food providers to enter low-income markets. Currently, we are talking with stakeholders statewide to better understand the barriers and address the policies that are keeping healthy food providers from serving markets where there is greatest need.
As you think about the bounty that fall provides, please consider what you and your organization can do to educate, support and fund efforts to bring the harvest to every Ohioan’s table. If you’d like to learn more about the Food Study and how you can come alongside Finance Fund to improve access to healthy food in Ohio, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.