There are many methods of food production, distribution and processing and the impact on today’s society can often be hard to track. Within the Ride for Food partner network, we have a wide variety of organizations hard at work tackling their important piece of our food system puzzle. Leading up to the ride we will be posting a ‘Tell me more about:’ series to shed light on some of the intricacies of the food issues and causes around us.
Tell me more about…food access
To talk about food access, we must begin with what access really means. The term was defined at the World Food Summit of 1996 as when “people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, culturally relevant, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” It sounds quite simple in theory, in fact, some of us have always experienced life with limitless access. We’ve always lived within close proximity to grocery stores, with reliable transportation and widely available fresh and nutritious food. So what does life without access look like? It’s complicated.
In a report by the Food Trust in 2010 Massachusetts was ranked as the 3rd worst state in the country for food access in a measure of supermarkets per capita. The report continues to state that “lack of access to affordable and nutritious food has a negative impact on the health of children and families. A growing body of research indicates that people who live in communities without a supermarket suffer from disproportionately high rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related health problems.” In many underserved neighborhoods, the food available is predominantly packaged and processed. You might have heard the recently popular term ‘food deserts’, to describe areas in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. In recent years there have been several studies and data that map out these areas of food insecurity, but to the local residents, it’s not new information. In fact, citizens are eager to transform their neighborhoods and disadvantaged food system.
So in our attempt to understand food access it’s important to recognize the important role our partners are playing in bridging the gap between farms and communities. Through a variety of social impact initiatives, from community farming to mobile food markets, our partners are strengthening the health of our neighbors. Our partner The Food Project highlights issues of availability and affordability for families living in neighborhoods with limited food access in their report on Healthy Food Accessibility in Underserved Boston Neighborhoods: The Affordability and Viability of Farmers’ Markets. This report supports the recent expansion of federal assistance for farmer’s markets as a method for improving food access. These programs use incentives to increase availability and affordability of fresh, local produce in food insecure neighborhoods.
Increasing food access and reducing diet-related disease in Boston is a critical call to action for several of our non-profit partner organizations. If you’re interested in learning more or getting involved with Three Squares New England, you can find more information here.