Sarah Bowen’s April 28 Point of View “ Trying to fortify food deserts” gives a glimpse into the lives of those who lack access to affordable, healthy food. Without nearby grocery stores, many choose between buying expensive, unhealthy food products at a nearby corner store or spending time going to a grocery store less frequently. Neither bodes well for a healthy diet.
Bowen suggests correctly that government can help develop institutional and financial support to minimize barriers and get healthy food to those who need it. Small retailers face barriers to selling healthy, affordable foods in their stores, but small investments can have large benefits. We have already seen progress with healthy corner store pilots that have started selling fresh fruits and vegetables, often grown locally.
With a statewide program, we could do more – provide funding for refrigeration, technical assistance, marketing and partnerships with other healthy small retailers to leverage purchasing power, bringing together our abundant local food production with high-need areas.
The House study committee on food desert zones was a start, but legislators need to continue to study food access and develop solutions to increase healthy retail across the state. Let’s develop a North Carolina solution for a North Carolina problem.