You Are Where You Eat!

Baltimarket and Food Access, Baltimore City Health Department

By: Laura Flamm, M.S.P.H.  – Director, Baltimarket and Food Access, Baltimore City Health Department

Everyone’s heard the idea “you are what you eat”.  But what about “you are where you eat”?

In Baltimore, you can go blocks before finding fresh fruit, let alone fresh vegetables.  This is particularly true in low-income areas.  Many other cities see the same trend.

These areas that lack fresh, healthy food have caught our attention.  Baltimore Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake has made food access a priority issue.  She’s not the only one.  Community advocates, researchers, and nonprofit organizations are talking about how to bring fresh foods into these areas.  So much so that they now have a name: food deserts.

What does a food desert mean?  It means that you live more than a quarter mile from a grocery store.  It also means that incomes and vehicle ownership are low in your area.  And it means that there aren’t many healthy food options at nearby stores.

It will come as no surprise that living in a food desert makes it hard to eat healthy foods.  The research shows that living farther from a supermarket raises your risk for obesity.  Living close to stores and restaurants that serve unhealthy foods ups that risk too.  One in five areas in Baltimore is considered to be a food desert.

Living in a food desert doesn’t mean that you have to eat unhealthy foods though.  The Baltimore City Health Department is working to make sure you can eat healthy, no matter where you live.  This March for National Nutrition Month we are highlighting our food access initiatives.

  • Your one-stop shop for healthy eating in Baltimore. Visit us and we’ll show you how to find farmers markets and grocery stores.  We have a library of healthy recipes and links to cooking classes.  You can even learn how to adopt a nearby lot to grow your own vegetable garden!
  • Virtual Supermarket Program: An online grocery shopping program that fights food deserts. Orders are delivered to community sites each week.  Customers pay for groceries with EBT/food stamps, debit, credit, or cash. And through the support of several philanthropic organizations, BCHD covers the delivery fee.  Sites and ordering informationare here.
  • Healthy Stores Program: A program promoting healthy eating in West Baltimore. We just kicked off work with four corner stores and 16 youth.  Together, they’re working to sell more healthy food at corner stores in West Baltimore.  Learn morehere.
  • Neighborhood Food Advocates Initiative: Do you want to fight for healthy foods in your community? We also host a city-wide Food Justice Forum.  Get involved today.
  • Food Policy Initiative: A governmental collaboration to change the food landscape in Baltimore. We are proud to partner with the Department of Planning and the Baltimore Development Corporation.  Learn more here.

We’d love to hear from you.  What are you doing to make your family and your community healthier this National Nutrition Month?

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