Every individual and community should have access to healthy food. However, access to fresh food may be difficult or nonexistent, especially in low-income communities. This lack of fresh food can lead to health problems such as diabetes and obesity, which the American Medical Association (AMA) has recently recognized as a disease.
To eliminate these “food deserts,” our veterans and other community organizations have come up with innovative solutions to develop sustainable food systems that will benefit local populations.
Nutritious eating has been found to be closely linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases. Research has also found that the presence of a supermarket in a neighborhood leads to an increased percentage of residents meeting nutritional guidelines.
Organizations such as the California FreshWorks Fund (CAFWF), a public-private partnership loan fund, aims to increase access to healthy food in underserved communities by providing loans and flexible credit to grocers and distributors to help them overcome the high costs of entering food deserts and to support innovations in healthy food retailing.
According to CAFWF, fewer supermarkets and retail outlets are available in low-income communities. Not only that, but the presence of grocery stores in these communities has been found to create an average of 24.3 new jobs per 10,000 square feet of retail grocery space.
Access to nutritious food makes up just one part of a thriving, healthy community; but it can also play a role in stimulating economic activity and leave lasting benefits for the local population.
Our veterans are also making a meaning impact in providing healthy food to their local communities. Among them is our Farmer Veteran Kelly Carlisle. After serving as an Operations Specialist in the US Navy and Navy Reserve, Kelly returned home to East Oakland, California where she found gardening to have a therapeutic effect. Channeling her sense of duty toward her country into her local community, Kelly cofounded Acta Non Verba, a non-profit urban farm that focuses on serving at-risk youth. Along with providing a safe and creative outdoor space for children and youth, Acta Non Verba provides fresh and affordable produce to an underserved community, while also raising seed money for college funds for participating children and teens.
Childhood obesity and school dropout rates are abnormally high in East Oakland. With Acta Non Verba, Kelly hopes to use her urban farming project as a catalyst to improve the standard of living and create a healthier future for East Oakland youth—something that as a mother, Kelly feels very strongly about.
And thanks to joining the Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund as a Bon Appétit Good Food Fellow, Kelly can expand the work she’s doing with Acta Non Verba. She was able to recently buy a pickup truck—a necessity for her urban garden—and she plans to start a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project in her local community, establish a farmers market on site, and begin community classes teaching topics such as composting, cooking, basic gardening, and more.
Through her garden, Kelly explains that she can “feed a certain number of families, but more importantly, the amount of people who will be soothed and inspired by the process is a far reaching goal that has a much larger impact on our society.”
A healthy lifestyle is fostered by a variety of factors. Chief among them is access to nutritious, fresh food. In populations that lack access to produce and proper health education, something as simple—yet powerful—as a community garden or a local grocery store can positively impact the entire community.
To learn more about how to contribute to the healthy food movement, contact us.