Access to healthy food and why it continues to matter – Part 2

Evidence shows that healthy food access continues to be a critical factor for improving both the physical and economic health and well-being of communities.

A new report (Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters: A Review of the Research) was released in November 2013 on access to healthy food and its importance. It provides an up to date review of a large volume of new research (from the past three years) on food access in the United States by PolicyLink and The Food TrustPart 1 of this article gave an overview of the report.

Evidence shows that healthy food access continues to be a critical factor for improving both the physical and economic health and well-being of communities. 

Healthy food retailers, whether they are grocery stores, farmers markets, cooperatives, mobile markets and other vendors of fresh, affordable, nutritious food have been increasing in many limited access communities through several innovative approaches that help improve food access. Here in Michigan, the MI Food Policy Council released its 2013 recommendations in September, which outline opportunities for increasing healthy food access and food industry jobs.

The report, titled Cultivate a Safe, Healthy, Accessible Food Supply and Build Michigan’s Economy, recommends building the capacity of Michigan’s farmers market sector, assisting small-scale farms in achieving food safety certification to increase their sales to multiple sectors and supporting a state Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) to provide access to financial capital to create jobs in the local food systems.  Food Assistance Programs such as the MI Bridge card and Double Up Food Bucks are helping to bring together farmers, markets, community agencies and residents to help healthier communities and stronger local economies.

Co-op Stall

Michigan State University Extension Community Food Systems (CFS) educators support the MI Good Food Charter, a policy initiative which aims to promote policy changes that will advance “good food” in Michigan – food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable. The MI Good Food Charter presents a vision for Michigan’s food and agriculture system and outlines 25 agenda priorities to achieve by the year 2020. MSU Extension’s Community Food Systems educators work on initiatives around the state that inform and support local/regional foods, including healthy food access. For more information on this team and their educational initiatives, go to MSU Extension Community Food Systems.

This national review (Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters: A Review of the Research) of evidence published in the past two decades, and the past three years in particular, provides the following implications for policy and research:

  • Comprehensive equity-oriented approaches to improving food retailing and access that take economic, social and environmental contexts into account are needed to improve health.
  • Strategies should focus on those most in need – low-income people and communities of color.
  • Lessons learned about the implementation of recent healthy food initiatives to improve food retailing in underserved communities will be critical to understanding how healthy food can be accessed by all.

To read the summary or full report, please visit Healthy Food Access Matters on the PolicyLink website

Related Articles