Healthy food access is a major issue facing the homeless community. Most experiencing homelessness have a difficult enough time locating consistent meals without the added burden of maintaining a balanced diet. Most homeless individuals reside in areas of the city called “food deserts.” Food deserts are urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Most of us have the luxury of choosing between healthy food and junk food, but many are not so lucky.
Imagine for a moment that you are a mother of a child who is hungry, but you live in a food desert and lack access to transportation. Your nearest option for food may be your local corner store. Thus, you are far more likely to purchase your child a bag of chips to keep her tummy from growling because that is all you have readily available.
This is a serious issue facing the homeless community, as well as organizations like Gateway who serve our neighbors experiencing homelessness. In fact, the Gateway Center is located in a food desert! Talk about a catch-22.
Luckily, there are some really interesting new initiatives helping to increase food access for those experiencing homelessness! Get to know a few below.
Aggrigator is an awesome organization working to deliver fresh foods to the organizations who need them most. Just last week, Gateway was the lucky recipient of several pallets of green beans, cilantro, and cherry tomatoes! We are so grateful that there are motivated groups who are passionate about this issue and have our back when it comes to making sure our clients receive the very best.
There is a growing movement around the country to get fresh fruits and vegetables into local corner stores located in food deserts. Casey Slive of the Columbus Healthy Corner Stores Initiative explains, “This initiative has shown us that is it important for low income folks to access healthy foods in their communities. Education is the most important part of the program, but produce giveaways and food access programs also help increase awareness within communities about the need for fresh foods.”
All over Atlanta and the U.S., farmers markets are now accepting food stamps at the rate of 2 for 1. For every $1 of SNAP an individual spends, they receive $2 work of local food from the markets! The number of farmers markets licensed to accept SNAP benefits is increasing nationwide. Click herefor the list of farmers markets accepting SNAP benefits. Click here to see the change in the number of participating markets and farmers and their SNAP redemptions.
This group epitomizes the word “resourceful.” Concrete Jungle was founded in 2009 as a volunteer-run, Atlanta-based organization that helps to distribute unused food to the hungry. Concrete Jungle receives almost all of its food from the hundreds of fruit and nut trees growing in the Atlanta area — in yards, on the side of the road, next to buildings. Most of these trees are untended and ignored, with their bounty being wasted to wildlife while only miles away many poor and homeless struggle to include any fresh produce in their diet.
How Can I Help?
Get involved! These organizations always need new volunteers who are ready to get their hands dirty (gardening pun intended). Look for opportunities to get involved by clicking on the links above and learning more about the impact of food deserts on homeless and low income communities! Education about this issue is ultimately what’s going to solve it. Do you want to be a part of the solution?