As you read this, wholesome food that could help feed families is on its way to landfills, while millions of Americans across the country struggle to lead healthy lives because they lack important nutrients in their diet.
In the U.S., we throw away an astonishing amount of food—roughly 30-40 percent of our food supply is wasted according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, more than 23 million of us, including 6.5 million children, live in “food deserts”—areas more than a mile away from a supermarket where people have difficulty finding affordable, high-quality, fresh food.
In Baltimore City, Maryland, residents like Franny can walk to a half-dozen fast-food restaurants for meals. There are plenty of corner stores selling everything from potato chips to soft drinks, too. But when it came to finding fresh fruits and vegetables, Franny is out of luck.
Franny, like an estimated one out of four Baltimore residents, lives in a food desert. In central Maryland, an estimated 345,000 people don’t have access to healthy food. And the challenge only grows from there: When families don’t have nutritious food, kids often have a hard time focusing in school and don’t have the energy they need to learn and grow.
In response, United Way of Central Maryland’s Access to Healthy Food Initiative partnered with the Farm Alliance of Baltimore to ensure Franny and her neighbors can buy fresh fruits and vegetables from urban farm stands right in their neighborhood.
The Access to Healthy Food Initiative aims to source more local, healthy food; improve distribution; and increase access and affordability. In Franny’s case, she now receives “double dollars” on healthy purchases through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), helping her and her family eat better for less.
Now, when Franny wants to pick up dinner for her family, she bypasses the fast-food restaurants and corner stores, and purchases affordable, healthy ingredients from the local farm stands instead.
So, what can we do to reduce food loss and feed the hungry, while saving money and reducing environmental waste? The federal government, which is setting out to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030, recommends:
- Planning your meals before you go shopping
- Store fruits and vegetables for maximum freshness
- Prepare perishable foods soon after shopping; freeze items you won’t eat in time
- Eat what you already have at home before buying more food
You can also donate nutritious, untouched food to food banks in your community to help those in need get the nutrition they require. When we LIVE UNITED, we can contribute to the health and well-being of every person in every community.