Access to healthy food


by Ben Lilliston • Many people in Minneapolis, including entire neighborhoods, lack access to healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate foods. Last year, IATP organized a series of roundtable discussions with Minneapolis community members to talk about the food they buy. Participants represented a diversity of ages and backgrounds, and discussed their personal experiences and perceptions regarding food access in their communities.

Think Forward is a blog written by staff of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy covering sustainability as it intersects with food, rural development, international trade, the environment and public health. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.

Several key themes emerged from the discussions:

* Improving access is critical to increasing consumption of healthy foods. Simply knowing what

to eat is not enough; people need sources of affordable, accessible food to make those healthy
food choices.

* “Access” means more than physical access to food. Other factors, including affordability, time to
prepare food and cultural traditions, are often important in determining whether people will buy
and consume healthier food.

* Farmers markets and other community-based initiatives are important and successful ways to
increase access to healthy foods. However, they must be coupled with efforts to influence public
policy and address the larger societal and environmental issues that hinder access to and
consumption of healthier options.

You can read more about the roundtables here. The discussions drew the connection between food produced locally and health. This year, IATP will be working with the city on a new initiative called Homegrown Minneapolis, designed to increase the number of farmers markets, expand community gardening and urban agriculture, and boost the use of locally grown foods in restaurants and grocery stores.

Minnesota has the potential to be a national leader in local food use and production. An October study published in the Journal of Extension found that Minnesota had the potential to meet 90 percent of its food needs through local production—the highest percentage in the country.

We’ll be following policies and market developments that affect local food systems at our new Local Foods Web page.

originally published 1/22/09