The World Health Organization (WHO) defines social determinants of health in the following way: “The conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.” Furthermore, “these circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power, and resources at global, national and local levels.” These social circumstances create societal stratification and are responsible for health inequities among different groups of people based on social and economic class, gender, and ethnicity. Social determinants of health are an underlying cause of today’s major societal health dilemmas including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Moreover, complex interactions and feedback loops exist among the social determinants of health. For example, poor health or lack of education can impact employment opportunities which in turn constrain income. Low income reduces access to healthcare and nutritious food and increases hardship. Hardship causes stress which in turn promotes unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse and overeating unhealthy foods.
As reported by the United States Department of Agriculture, consumer choices about food spending and diet are likely to be influenced by the accessibility and affordability of food retailers—travel time to shopping, availability of healthy foods, and food prices. Some people and places, especially those with low income, may face greater barriers to accessing healthy and affordable food retailers, which may negatively affect diet and food security.
Baltimore City Health Department’s mission is to serve Baltimore by promoting health and advocating for every individual’s well-being to achieve health equity for all residents. One way this is accomplished is through Baltimarket.
Baltimarket is a suite of community-based food access and food justice programs through the Baltimore City Health Department. Baltimarket’s mission is to improve the health and wellness of Baltimore City residents by using food access and food justice as strategies for community transformation. Baltimarket programs include the following: Virtual Supermarket Program, Healthy Stores Program, and the Food Justice Forum.
Virtual Supermarket Program
The Virtual Supermarket Program is an innovative approach to addressing Healthy Food Priority Areas. It uses online grocery ordering and delivery to bring food to neighborhoods with low vehicle ownership and inadequate access to healthy foods.
It enables residents to order groceries at their local library senior/disabled housing, or from a designated site.
It is the mission of the Virtual Supermarket Program to work with communities and grocery stores to facilitate access to healthy foods. The staff and Neighbor Food Advocates of Virtual Supermarket teach Baltimore residents online grocery shopping and community organizing skills to encourage ownership of their local food environments as well as healthy eating.
Neighborhood Food Advocates are trained community members whose mission is to generate community-driven approaches to increase food access.
The Healthy Stores program engages with the community and faith-based organizations to educate and promote the selection of healthy foods. In corner stores, the program provides owners with store infrastructure, nutrition education, and marketing strategies to enable them to stock and sell healthier foods. Participating stores agree to stock designated varieties and forms of fruits and vegetables, healthy drinks including water, and other items to make a complete healthy meal.
Program Contact: Jasina Wise, Food Access and Nutrition Manager | 410.396.8951 |
Food Justice Forum
The annual Baltimore Food Justice Forum equips Baltimore City residents with practical tools and information needed to get healthy, affordable food in their neighborhoods. The Food Justice Forum is planned by the Baltimore Food Justice Committee, with leadership from the Baltimore City Health Department's Baltimarket program.
During the Forum, attendees engage in dialogue about food injustice in Baltimore, discuss the significant role that race and place play in access to healthy food, and uplift community solutions that are working in Baltimore.
With leadership from the Baltimore City Health Department’s Baltimarket program, the Baltimore Food Justice Committee aims to recognize and uplift grassroots leaders that advance social justice in Baltimore through food. The Baltimore Food Justice Committee is composed of people that grow, sell, teach about, advocate for, and eat healthy food in Baltimore City. We welcome all who value accessibility, dialogue, respect, openness, dismantling racism, connecting resources, and good food.
If you are interested in joining our discussion contact, Jasina Wise, Food Access and Nutrition Manager | 410.396.8951 |
Baltimore Food Policy Initiative
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 that draws on the expertise of each to use food as a lens to examine and address the systems that perpetuate the food environment disparities. The goal of BFPI is to increase access to healthy and affordable foods in Baltimore City through a holistic and comprehensive food systems approach.
Mapping the Food Environment
The Department of Planning and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future collaborate to examine the Baltimore food environment through research, analysis, and mapping in order to inform BFPI’s work.