About 340,000 Minnesotans don’t have access to healthy food on a regular basis because of either distance or income barriers, and about a quarter of a million live more than 10 miles from a large grocery store or supermarket.
A recent poll commissioned by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota found state residents place a high value on being able to access healthy, affordable food for their families.
Janelle Waldock, vice president for Community Health and Health Equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, says more than seven in ten say they would choose healthier food if more options were available in their communities.
“We’re one of the biggest agricultural states of anywhere in the nation, but yet we have many communities in the urban areas, in the suburban areas and in rural Minnesota that are food deserts and where people really struggle and have challenges accessing healthy food,” she points out.
The poll found access to healthy food is a key influencer when it comes to where people choose to live.
Legislature considering action
The Minnesota Legislature currently is considering a bill to provide funding for the Good Food Access Program, which was created last year to help business owners wanting to sell healthy, affordable food.
Leah Gardner, Good Food Access Campaign manager for Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition, says food access is a problem all across the state.
“There are more and more communities that are finding themselves without a grocery store and having to travel 10 miles, even 30, 40 miles in order to find a full-service grocery store, which is where you’re going to find a full range of options that you need at an affordable price,” she states.
Lawmakers currently are determining if the program will be funded in the future.