We all have experienced the struggle of eating healthy, but these decisions can be simply based on taste or how we feel that day. But what if you did not have access to healthy food or could not afford to eat healthier?
That is what often makes the meal choice for people living in poverty: convenience and cost.
The Easton Public Market (located on Northampton Street in Easton, PA) opened in April 2016, spanning 16,000-square-feet and includes 12 locally sourced vendors as well as a sprawling 800-square-foot farm stand with fresh produce. The market is open 5 days a week (including weekends) and serves to make local produce more available in the city’s downtown area. Like the Easton Farmers’ Market (America’s longest continuously running open-air market at 264 years), the indoor market accepts supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits.
The goals of the farm stand are three-fold: encourage and promote healthy behaviors by overcoming the hurdles of access and cost; tell the story of where the food comes from and creating that accompanying sense of place thanks to this knowledge; and support local farmers who are often forgotten and underappreciated in the today’s expansive food industry as less than 1% of food bought by consumers in the Lehigh Valley is purchased directly from local farms.
Being a student-athlete, eating healthy is a critical part of everyday life but it is also a privilege in the world today. Trying to strike out hunger and homelessness is not a small task, but making sure that these vulnerable populations have access to a supermarket with reasonably-priced, fresh produce within walking distance is a huge problem in this country that is not widely discussed. The Lehigh Valley alone has 8 designated food deserts; these communities have poverty rate greater than 20% and over a third of the population lives more than a mile from a supermarket*.
Next time you buy vegetables from the supermarket, consider how many people put effort into providing that nutritious produce for you but also how many people cannot afford or access what you are able to purchase. Think about if you know where that food on your plate is coming from and try to donate any food you are not able to use to a local food bank or homeless shelter. We need to start thinking about how we can return the food system to engaging with farms in our communities and improve food equity in the most vulnerable areas.