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Friday, June 18, 2010

Healthy Food for Everyone!

Recently, I discovered a new term, which resonated deeply: food insecurity. This is defined as, "a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally acceptable or safe foods, (Obesity, Poverty, & the Case for CSA in NY). There are  multiple ways to read that quote. To many, everything at the grocery store is acceptable and safe.  To others, acceptable and safe is not food that is laden with preservatives, chock full of sodium, spiked with MSG, or addictive. What the FDA deems as safe, is not, in many opinions, including ours, always risk-free. Therein  lies the varied interpretations of food insecurity's definition.

It does not take the knowledge of a rocket scientist or of a team of professors to articulate that there is a link between poverty and health. Specifically, there is a link between obesity and its risk factors and poverty.
It seems counter intuitive to suggest that those in poverty are also those more likely to suffer from diseases associated with obesity, but think about your local grocery store or those local Shopper Stoppers that come in the mail each week. What's cheaper: fresh, local, safe produce, or a box of Mac and Cheese?

Have you seen Food, Inc.? If not, we think you should! That documentary is one of the most important documentaries of this decade (again, in our humble opinions). One piece of that documentary demonstrates quite well the point that we're attempting to make.  A Latino-American family eats at McDonald's nearly every day because a Big Mac is cheaper than a head of broccoli. It's important to note that the father in this situation is diabetic. This is not an anomaly. In fact, research in first world countries around the world show that there are connections between income and quality of diet. If ten dollars can feed a family of four at McDonald's, it's hard to argue with that family in poverty that they should go purchase two pounds of broccoli for the same price. In essence, it's much easier to eat healthy food if you're NOT poor.
What is exciting is that headway is being made in states across the country. Right here, in Dane County, a local organization called the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC), has a wonderful program named The Partner Shares Program. In their own words, the program is, "aimed at improving nutrition by increasing access to fresh, local vegetables and supporting local farmers in southern Wisconsin. Partner Shares provides financial assistance for fresh, sustainably grown produce from local CSA farms."  Partner Shares raises money that subsidizes CSA programs for people who couldn't ordinarily afford a CSA. Donations are accepted, so if you're in a position to give some money, please think about putting your charitable donation this year towards this fantastic initiative.
If you're reading this and you need better access to healthy, local food, don't wait another second to do your research!  Click here for the form (usually one needs to sign up in the spring, so you may need to wait until next year to begin receiving boxes). My parents qualified to receive this assistance this year. They pay $41.00 per month for weekly boxes! That is $10.25 per week for a box of beautifully fresh and  local produce. Many farms are associated with MACSAC; my parents opted to go with West Star Farm, both based on vicinity and recommendations. Here's a glimpse of their first box, which we picked up last night:
Yay for healthy food! $10.25!!
Programs like MACSAC's Partner Shares are going to make a real difference in both supporting local farmers AND improving the health of all of the people among us. My colleague and good friend recently helped to sign up a student's family for the same program. Little by little, by word of mouth, by blogging, by discussing, a real difference can be made!

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