Eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer prepackaged meals contribute to a person's quality and length of life. Increasing the availability of healthy food options also increases the likelihood of healthier eating.
However, buying healthier foods is a challenge to many city residents.
- Baltimore City lost 15% of its supermarkets between 2000 and 2002.1 This loss created "food deserts" or areas where healthy food options do not exist.
- Therefore, many residents only go to a supermarket about once a month and go to corner stores weekly. Many of these corner stores offer money orders, alcohol and lottery tickets, but no fresh fruits or vegetables, whole wheat bread or skim milk. Additionally, the price of staples such as milk, cereal and bread is roughly 20% higher than in supermarkets.
- Supermarkets in more affluent urban areas often have twice the selection of fruits and vegetables than markets in low-income neighborhoods.
Lack of healthy food options contributes to the city's high incidence of chronic disease. Baltimore City's "food desert" areas have the highest rates of stroke, diabetes and heart disease in the City.2 These health outcomes can be improved with opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity.
One potential way to provide more access to healthy foods is to increase the number of farmer's markets in the city, extend their hours and locate them closer to public transportation.
Another option under development by the Baltimore City Health Department is the "Virtual Supermarket". Under this plan, city residents can go to designated public library branches to order food online. The next day, shoppers can pick up their food at the libraries.
In the overall effort to to help City residents obtain healthy food, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future developed a mapping system to identify healthy food sources in Baltimore. To learn more about this system, visit: www.mdfoodsystemmap.org.
Being able to eat smart consistently is a serious challenge for Baltimore City residents in poorer neighborhoods. However, with creative strategies, the city can increase access to healthy food options for its citizens.
Food Access Resources
Baltimore City Health Department / Baltimarket
Baltimore Food Policy Initiative
1Choudhry K, Rahmanou H, 2007. Childhood Obesity in Baltimore City: Assessment and Recommendations to the Baltimore City Health Commissioner. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
2The Baltimore City Health Department, 2009. Community Health Action Resource and Mobilization Kit, Vol. 1, Issue 3. http://www.baltimorecity.gov/Government/AgenciesDepartments/Planning/BaltimoreFoodPolicyInitiative.aspx