Each year when the weather warms up, I think back to an afternoon when my family picked blackberries by a road’s edge. I remember thorn pricks, bee stings and the pinging sound the berries made in our metal bowls as we plucked them from the brambles. Later, we turned the berries into jam that we shared with our neighbors for weeks.
What I don’t remember as well are all the grocery store jams I’ve bought since then. Much of today’s convenient, mass-produced food is void not just of nutrients and flavor, but of a story—of what elevates food from a glob of calories into something that brings people together.
As we work to build a Culture of Health across the country, two healthy eating strategies are improving access to healthier food and creating social connections: farmers’ markets and community gardens.
Since farmers’ markets allow farmers to sell food directly to consumers, the markets can increase access to fresh, locally- grown-and-raised fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods that might not otherwise be available within a community. Evidence even suggests that farmers’ markets reduce disparities in healthy food access and affordability. In addition to other potential benefits, like an improved local economy and opportunities to walk, there are social benefits:
Community gardens, like farmers’ markets, increase access to and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. These gardens may even increase surrounding property values and decrease crime, as well as provide gardeners with opportunities to be physically active. People who are directly involved in community gardens’ upkeep also benefit socially:
Farmers’ markets and community gardens don’t seed themselves, though. They need investment, dedication and community engagement in order to be sustainable and reach more people. This spring, we at Active Living By Design look forward to coaching grantmakers and communities through the process of improving healthy food access. As for me, I’ll be waxing nostalgic about blackberries somewhere at a farmers’ market.
Share your favorite healthy food memory with us! We’d love to hear how you connect to your community through food.