It’s not enough to learn how to prepare your favorite healthy recipes, you must also be able to purchase the ingredients.
If a person can’t afford the ingredients or lacks access due to transportation, they will not be able to follow a healthy diet. For many in our marginalized communities, the barriers to a healthy diet are daunting.
The numbers are staggering. According to an assessment by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, only 25% of adults living in Cuyahoga County reported meeting the daily recommended fruit and vegetable consumption; One in four adults is obese; about 50% of all Cleveland residents; And 25% of all Cuyahoga County residents live in a “food desert.”
Recipe Re-Mix is successful with helping low-income residents in Cleveland, Ohio, learn how to cook their traditional dishes in a healthier way. However, if people can’t get to a grocery store to purchase the ingredients needed to make the healthier dishes or can’t afford the ingredients once they do get to a store, they are not going to be able to change their diets.
In a recent session we made a crustless spinach and mushroom quiche. I went to three different stores located closest to Cleveland “Food Deserts” to compare the prices of the ingredients used to make the quiche. The closest store to the residents I’m working with is also the most expensive. The findings:
Store A Store B Store C
Mushroom (8oz) $1.99 $1.50 $1.39
Garlic (Bulb) $0.97 $ 0.87 n/a
Spinach ( 10 oz Frozen) $1.89 $1.56 $0.99
Large Eggs (Dozen) $1.49 $1.19 $1.09
Milk (Gallon) $1.99 $1.98 $1.89
Feta Cheese (4 oz. Crumbled) $2.99 $1.50 $2.19
Parmesan Cheese (Shredded) $1.67 $1.50 $1.98
Mozzarella Cheese (Shredded) $2.50 $1.50 $ $1.69
Totals $15.49 $11.60 $11.22
*The recipe called for smaller measures of the purchased items. Excluding the milk purchase, the stores did not offer lesser amounts of the needed ingredients.
Areas can only be considered “Food Deserts” if more than 30% of its population has income below 200% of the poverty level ($48k for a family of 4) and the area is located more than ½ mile from the nearest grocery store. The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) residents I am currently working with live in an area of Cleveland where over 50% of the residents live over 2 miles from a grocery store.
The absence of personal transportation presents a barrier to anyone living inside or outside food deserts.
When I was living in Ithaca (NY) and Dublin (Ireland) I did not have a car. I walked or used public transportation to get everywhere. My grocery shopping habits changed drastically during that time; instead of buying items in larger quantities, I had to buy smaller quantities which cost more. I didn't have the convenience of pushing a grocery cart out to my car, loading the trunk up with goods, and then leisurely carrying multiple bags into my home. I had to be able to carry the bags as I walked home or manage them on a crowded bus.
The Cuyahoga County Health Department reports that in Cuyahoga County, nearly 20% of all food desert households have no personal vehicle. Within the City of Cleveland (food desert and non-food desert areas), access to personal transportation is about 26% of the population.
What are the next steps? What can we do to help with the costs of groceries in Food Deserts? What can we do to help the marginalized population gain better access to affordable food? These are the issues we are working on at Recipe Re-Mix, a Social Sprouts Ohio initiative.
Next week I will post updates on our progress as we work on solutions to address these issues in our marginalized communities.
Please visit our website: www.socialsproutsohio.com
Ref: Cuyahoga County Health Department: http://www.ccbh.net/cuyahoga-county-supermarket-assessment/