Let’s define a food desert
In food deserts communities may have little to no access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Both urban and rural towns may be affected, and include those serviced only by fast food restaurants or convenience stores that lack healthy and affordable options.
Lack of healthy options contribute to a poor diet, leading to higher levels of obesity and other diet related diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
The United State Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as a census tract with a substantial amount of residents who live in low-income areas and who have limited access to a grocery store or a healthy, affordable food retail outlet.
Census tracts qualify as food deserts if they meet low-income and low-access thresholds:
- They qualify as “low-income communities” based on having either having a poverty rate of 20 percent or greater, or a median family income at or below 80 percent of the area median family income
- They qualify as “low-access communities”, based on the determination that at least 500 persons and/or at least 33% of the census tract’s population live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (10 miles, in the case of non-metropolitan census tracts).
Who is affected?
So how many people in Allen County live in a food desert?
There are 12 identified food deserts census tracks in Allen County that affect more than 29,000 people, with eight of those tracks located within the city of Lima. 27.5% of residents have limited access to fresh produce and other healthier food options.
What are we doing to combat food deserts?
There have been several programs created to help finds solutions to these food deserts and bring healthy options to the residents in Allen County.
Healthy Happens Here
The Healthy Happens Here program works with small stores in Allen County that are located within food deserts. Stores such as Riverview on Pine Street and Wally’s Fillin’ Station on North Cole, incorporate fresh produce and healthy snacks in there inventory. We work with owners to obtain fresh produce and designate healthy snack options from vendors.
Store owners are given tools, resources, and promotion to start selling healthier options so residents in food deserts have increased access to produce in the neighborhood.
For a list of stores and more information on this program go to: Healthy Happens Here!
Mobile Product Market
A mobile produce market, run by the West Ohio Food Bank, stops throughout food deserts in the community and offers fresh produce at a reduced cost, available for anyone who wishes to purchase. The schedule for the bus is available at the West Ohio Food Bank’s website or visit our Mobile Produce Market page to learn more.
Who Is Involved?
The Allen County Food Council was formed in 2014 to address the local food system and coordinate efforts to make it stronger locally. To date, the council has completed a Food System Assessment and County Action Plan, both of which are available here. The Allen County Food Council is led by representatives from Allen Soil and Water Conservation District, Allen County Commissioners Office, and the Lima-Allen County Regional Planning Commission.
Lima City Schools and Apollo Career Center have partnered their culinary program together to create the Cooking for Change initiative, which will provide educational sessions for at risk families throughout the county. Sessions will teach healthy eating and cooking techniques.
The Downtown Lima Farmers Market, located in one of our food deserts, provides access to locally grown produce and homemade foods for the public to enjoy.
How can you get Activated?
Support local healthy happens here partner corner stores like Riverview on Pine Street and Wally’s Fillin’ Station on North Cole. Educate others on the need to purchase and carry fresh produce. Spread the word!
Tweet #WeAreActivated and join in on the movement.
Funding and support for these programs is made possible by the following organizations.
Mobile Produce Market- West Ohio Food Bank
Allen County Food Council- Allen Soil and Water Conservation District, Allen County Commissioners Office and Lima-Allen County Regional Planning Commission
Cooking for Change- Lima City Schools, Apollo Career Center, City of Lima, Lima Family YMCA, US Conference of Mayors and American Beverage Association
Downtown Lima Farmers Market- Allen Soil and Water Conservation District, St. Rita’s Medical Center, Downtown Lima, Inc.