Food Access

Improving Food Access in Baltimore

Access to healthy food is a key determinant of health. Lack of easy access to healthy foods has a close and complex relationship with nutrition knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy; food security and household income; and environmental policies and systemic inequities.  These factors combine to affect the diets, and in turn the health, of low-income people.

In Baltimore City, as in far too many other American cities, access to food is a challenge for low-income residents.  Twenty percent of Baltimore is considered a food desert, as the nearest supermarket is more than a quarter of a mile away, the median household income is at or below 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, more than 40 percent of households lack transportation, and the average Healthy Food Availability Index for area stores is low (Center for a Livable Future, 2012). In addition, these neighborhoods are heavily saturated with corner stores, fast food, and carry-out establishments that provide few healthy food options. 

The Baltimore City Health Department addresses the health disparities that are driven by gaps in food access as a key collaborator in the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative (BFPI) and through innovative, community-based Baltimarket programming.  BFPI is an inter-governmental collaboration with the Department of Planning, Baltimore Office of Sustainability, Baltimore Development Corporation and the Baltimore City Health Department.  The goal of BFPI is to increase access to healthy and affordable foods in Baltimore City food deserts. BFPI is doing this through a holistic and comprehensive food systems approach. 

Created for the U.S. Conference of Mayors held in Baltimore, Maryland in June 2011, the above video highlights the academic, governmental, grassroots, and volunteer efforts to improve access to healthy affordable food in Baltimore City. Collaborations between the City of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University, and community organizations are serving to put key policy recommendations in action to make healthy food more affordable and accessible, and in doing so creating healthier people, neighborhoods and farmers.

To learn more about BCHD's community-based food access programs, visit the Baltimarket page or visit