I live far from grocery and farmers markets, and it can be hard to keep my pantry stocked with healthy food. When supplies are low, it’s easy to grab junk food at nearby gas stations, and if they carry staples (like milk, eggs, nuts, or fruit), it’s too expensive. Also, my work office and several friends are located in areas surrounded by fast food or grab & go stores. So there’s still a lack of healthy food options nearby. Like me, there are at least 30 million people in the U.S. who live and work in areas that lack convenient, affordable healthy food options, making it difficult to follow a healthy diet. This is called living in a “food desert.” Studies show that easy access to healthy food contributes to better health for children and adults and is one of the social determinants of health, which are societal factors that influence health outcomes. While living in a food desert can make these choices difficult, there are ways we can take control and make choices to try to eat healthier.
Plan Ahead, Save Money, Eat Better
• Before your next trip to the store, make a list and plan for healthy meals you’ll like.
• Buy larger quantities of frozen fruits and vegetables which are usually cheaper and don’t go bad.
• Buy in bulk (online if needed). Dried beans and sprout seeds can be stored for months, and sprouts can be grown at home in a jar within days.
• Fresh food like bananas and kale can be frozen (whole, cut or pureed) and then used in smoothies or other dishes later.
• Make your favorite healthy meals in advance, like turkey chili. Freeze the leftovers in individual containers to pop in the microwave at work.
• If you must eat at fast food places, there are some that offer healthier options on their menu, like salads and fruit. Scope them out in advance when you’re not hungry so you’ll be prepared to choose wisely when the time comes.
There are many food programs that could already be available in your area. Try signing up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, or find a farmers market that may be available in your area. Most of them take SNAP payments, so if you’re eligible, be sure to take advantage of these benefits. Food assistance programs can help There’s help for those experiencing food insecurity. If you or anyone you know struggles financially, food programs such as SNAP or WIC are discreet and can assist with food costs. Some organizations like Meals on Wheels America will deliver meals to those in need, specifically those who are 60 years of age and older. Your Health Advisor is here for you. Ask your Health Advisor for healthy recipes, tips, and tricks to stay active and help to locate resources in your community.