One in Eight D.C. Residents Reporting Struggle to Access Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Income and Access Contributing to Divide
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202.986.2200 x3018
Washington, D.C. – December 15, 2011 – More than 12 percent of people in Washington, D.C. reported an inability to access and afford fresh fruits and vegetables in the communities where they live, according to D.C. Hunger Solutions.
Much attention has been paid in recent years to whether Americans have adequate access to healthy food in their communities, and a new report (pdf) by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) sheds a light on such challenges in Washington, D.C. and across the nation.
Containing data down to the congressional district, FRAC’s report – A Half Empty Plate: Fruit and Vegetable Affordability and Access Challenges in America – analyzes the answers given by hundreds of thousands of survey respondents nationally to a question posed by Gallup-Healthways: “In the city or area where you live, is it easy or not easy to get affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.” FRAC characterizes “not easy” answers as evidence of an affordability and access challenge. D.C.’s rate places it among the ten worst states experiencing this challenge.
Income plays a large part. Nationally, those with household incomes less than $24,000 per year reported affordability and access challenges 2.5 times more frequently than those with incomes between $60,000 and $89,999. People who reported high rates of food hardship (an inability to afford enough food) also were considerably more likely to say they were challenged to access fruits and vegetables in their communities.
“A household’s ability to access healthy food hinges on having enough resources to do so. What the data show is that access and affordability are household economic insecurity problems as well as community ‘food desert’ problems,” said Alex Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “To solve this challenge, it is essential to support families’ ability to purchase healthier food items. That includes efforts at the federal level to improve SNAP benefits so they go further, efforts at the state level to increase outreach so more people receive these benefits, and then efforts at the community level to increase the number of outlets offering healthy food and accepting SNAP benefits.”
Many of these efforts are underway in D.C. Outreach efforts to enroll eligible people in SNAP (food stamps) have been a top priority of District leaders, as well as efforts to encourage more farmers’ markets in D.C. to accept SNAP (food stamps) benefits. Also, work is underway to implement the DC FEED Act and close the District’s “grocery gap” by attracting more retailers to the city and by supporting efforts to bring produce to corner stores.
Community access is just one piece of the puzzle, however. “Families need decent stores nearby, but they also need money or benefits like SNAP to shop in such stores,” said Ashbrook. “In short, all households need adequate resources to obtain a healthy diet.”
The full report is available on FRAC’s website at www.frac.org.
About the Report
A Half-Empty Plate contains the Food Research and Action Center’s analysis of survey data that were collected by Gallup. Gallup has been interviewing 1,000 households per day almost every day since January 2, 2008 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project. People have been asked a series of questions on a range of topics including emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment and access to basic services. Specific to this report, people were asked, “In the city or area where you live, is it easy or not easy to get affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.”