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Access to grocery stores a challenge in CT, even in affluent area

Funviralpark 1 year ago 0 2

There are areas across the state where residents struggle to find nearby grocery stores, and the challenge is exacerbated in areas with high poverty rates where residents may not have access to a car or public transportation. There is likely to be.

In some states, such as Bridgeport and New Haven, low income levels and long distances to grocery stores have created food deserts. Many residents of these cities, and others such as Hartford, Stamford, Danbury, and Waterbury, are located at least half a mile from the nearest grocery store. shop.

In wealthier neighborhoods, residents may struggle to buy food if their town has no or only one grocery store.

For example, in Easton, residents shop for groceries around the time of the farmers’ market, tailoring their shopping lists to what’s on offer at one grocery store, Greiser’s Coffee & Market, and vice versa in another town. I have to do some shopping.
Easton First Selectman David Bindelglass said the trade-off between Easton’s charm and beauty is that it has to move to other towns for commercial grocers. He said when residents want to go grocery shopping to a commercial store, they head to Fairfield, Monroe, or Trumbull.

That’s what other towns like Weston face.
With limited access to food, it may be more difficult for people to achieve a healthy diet, said Jacqueline Michael Midkiff, a public relations expert with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. says.

Julieth Callejas, executive director of End Hunger Connecticut, said more than 400,000 people in Connecticut suffer from hunger and food insecurity.
“Food insecurity is a prevalent problem in Connecticut,” she said.
“Regardless of income, people living in food deserts have worse access to the foods they want, including culturally specific, healthier (i.e., fresh) foods,” she says. “Many areas do not fit the USDA definition of a food desert, but many people, such as rural northeastern and northwestern Connecticut, do not have adequate access to supermarkets.”
Callejas said the need for access to food still exists regardless of whether a region is officially classified as a food desert.

“This will make school and summer meals available to students as a way to improve household food security, farmers market availability, incentives for low-income households, and transportation services to larger stores. That’s why it’s important,” she said.

low access

The USDA definition of a food desert is broken down by census block and considers both income and distance from grocery stores. A food desert is defined as a low-income population where at least 500 people or 33% of the population live more than 1 mile in urban areas and 20 miles or more in rural areas from the nearest supermarket, supercenter or large grocery store. It’s a census tract.
A low-income census district is any district with a poverty rate of 20 percent or more and a median household income that is less than or equal to 80 percent of the statewide median household income or metropolitan median household income. district.
“Low access to healthy food is defined as being far away from supermarkets, supercenters, or large grocery stores,” Michael-Midkiff said. A census area is considered inaccessible if a percentage of individuals are far from supermarkets, or if a significant number of households are far from supermarkets and inaccessible to vehicles.”

According to the Food Access Research Atlas, in 2019, about 8% of Connecticut census blocks were at least a mile or 10 miles away from a grocery store, according to the most recent analysis available. Based on the number of people living in the place, it could be considered a food desert.Tools used to identify these regions in the United States
These areas include parts of Bridgeport, New Haven, Naugatuck and Norwalk.
“There are areas that meet the low-access criteria but not the low-income criteria and vice versa,” said Michael Midkiff.
These areas include Westport, Weston, and parts of Easton where many live more than a mile from the grocery store.
“Prices are rising, so is hunger,” said Congressman Rosa DeLauro.
De Lauro said food deserts typically designate low-income communities of color, including rural communities where the nearest grocery store can be 30 minutes or more from a person’s home. said.
“What’s worse is that they’re disproportionately affecting low-income communities and communities of color,” De Lauro said. “It’s anger.”
DeLauro is happy the USDA is tracking which areas are considered food desserts under their standards. She believes that “community and government leaders will mobilize investments that help them better respond to community needs and bring stores and markets that provide fresh, healthy food to communities that need access.” Said it was a useful tool.

Available programs

To address these issues, Michael-Midkiff said USDA administers several food assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to help improve food security, especially in low-income communities. I said yes. She also said there are programs in place in state and local governments to “increase access to affordable and nutritious food for underserved people.”
Callejas said End Hunger Connecticut will focus on advocacy, education, outreach and research, a resource for policy makers, low-income households and community organizations.
“Our program aims to increase participation in federal food assistance programs such as SNAP and programs related to children’s nutrition and to support local farmers and emergency food systems,” said Callejas. “Our work on the ground allows us to inform our advocacy efforts and bring supporting data to influence community experiences and legislative change.
According to Callejas, their work has helped combat the effects of food desertification, including access to school meals, out-of-school meal programs, and increased access to farmers markets for low-income people. says that
“Hungry students cannot concentrate on learning, especially if you live in an area where nutritious food options are scarce, and school breakfast and/or lunch is the most nutritious food your child will eat throughout the day. I know it’s often an expensive diet,” she said.
To ensure that all students have equitable access to food in their schools, she is currently supporting a statewide fund to support free school meals for all Connecticut public school students. We work on campaigns. We also partner with states each year to help promote free summer meal programs.
Another program they offer is the CT Fresh Match program. This allows farmers markets across the state to double his SNAP-eligible purchases. She said this would increase access to locally grown fresh produce for low-income households that would otherwise have no access.
“Over the past few years, we have continued to expand our network of participating markets and have worked to increase the number of markets that not only have partners in every corner of the state, but also fill the gaps in health food options across the state. in food desert regions,” said Callejas.
Due to high population density, most food desserts in the state are located in urban areas, Callejas said.
“There are many bodegas and small stores, but these entities tend not to have the capacity to carry fresh fruit and vegetables,” she said. It’s one of the key reasons we launched the program and continue to expand our network of participating markets, giving SNAP recipients access to fresh produce in a way they couldn’t before.”

Callejas said about a decade ago there was a corner store initiative to install refrigerators and shelving to increase fresh food offerings in corner stores and bodega. Bridgeport is one of the cities that has used this program, but some areas have had mixed results.
De Lauro said there are also federal programs that can help.
“In one of the richest countries on earth, food shouldn’t appear to be scarce,” says DeLauro. Wealthier neighborhoods thrive with abundant grocery stores. ”
She chairs the House Appropriations Committee, where she launched the “Healthy Foods Funding Initiative, which invests in creating healthy eating options for underserved communities and food deserts.” $24 million was contested for the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund to support award programs.
She also helped secure the largest increase in SNAP benefits to help families pay for food and worked with colleagues to expand the Child Tax Credit as part of America’s Relief Plan. has reduced child poverty by 46%.
“After these monthly payments, food shortages among low-income households decreased by 26 percent,” she said. I have to, and I’m fighting to do just that.”

solidarity

But while these smaller, more rural communities may not have many grocery stores, the places they do serve a different role than a place to get food.
According to Bindelglass, Greiser’s Coffee & Market is a gathering place for Easton’s community, and residents enjoy frequent visits to the farmers’ market.
“There’s nothing quite like what’s harvested in the morning and sold in the afternoon,” he said of the farmers market.
In both Easton and Weston, communities, rather than chain grocers, seem to be a big part of trips to local vendors, according to officials and residents.
Peter’s Weston Market has been a hot spot for years, even though it closed about two years ago. Lily’s Weston Market opened at the location during the summer.
Mark McWhirter, one of the owners of Lily’s Weston Market, said the sense of community has been undermined while the market is closed.
“Since then, my friends and neighbors have always said hello,” he said.
Lily’s offers ready-to-eat meals and groceries. McWhirter says that while produce is popular at their store, ready-to-eat meals are also a big part of their business.
He said that for Thanksgiving, they prepared more than 100 cooked turkeys for their customers.
Samantha Nestor, Select Woman of Weston First, also said Lily’s Weston Market was a missing amenity in the community. Now she calls it the “Hub” where people can run into and catch up with other members of the community.
Nestor said he buys coffee from Lillies every day.
“We are very proud to support local businesses,” she said. “People in town don’t have to drive far because it’s the locals who are putting their money in.”

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