About a century ago, much of the U.S. population lived in rural areas. The growth of industrialization and immigration from small towns to big cities in the early 20th century caused a shift away from access to fresh farm produce, creating the conditions for healthy food priority areas. Seeking viable solutions for modern families in urban areas, food management expert Paul Bulau explores opportunities for improving access to nutritious and affordable options.
What Are Healthy Food Priority Areas?
The term “healthy food priority areas” refers to a residential area, typically urban, where access to fresh, healthy, affordable food is sparse. Often, a low-income population is a factor, and frequently, lack of access is defined by the lack of affordable, nutritious options and the need to travel outside the immediate area to reach quality food resources like grocery stores.
Paul Bulau says, “The problem is twofold: to address healthy food priority areas, you have to focus not only on the food choices available but how to get people to them or bring them to the people.”
Community Gardens and Food Co-Ops
According to Paul Bulau, community participation is at the heart of problem-solving when it comes to healthy food priority areas. “Community members understand specific issues at the local level and, therefore, have the greatest opportunity to enact sustainable changes. When the community is invested, everyone benefits.”
At the grassroots level, one great way to get local citizens involved is through community gardens, where volunteers tend plots and enjoy access to the food they grow. Food co-ops can also help urban residents gain access to fresh, affordable food by partnering with nearby farms to stay stocked up on local produce, meats, animal products, and manufactured goods.
Community participation is an important part of sustaining such operations, as members have a say in setting standards and controlling inventory and pricing.
Finding solutions that help residents reach markets that aren’t within easy walking distance entails a lot of coordination and potential expense. An easier solution is to bring fresh food options right to areas where they’re needed, and the food truck revolution offers an innovative solution.
In lieu of a farmer’s market, a mobile grocery store could bring regularly scheduled deliveries from nearby farms or markets. This solution offers flexibility in selecting locations where services are needed most, as well as providing the items community members want and need. These operations may be funded publicly, privately, or through partnerships by both.
At the government level, tax incentives can help bring in businesses offering access to healthy and affordable food, as can sponsorship programs supporting urban farming initiatives. Access to reliable and affordable public transit is also an option.
A Multi-Pronged Approach Is Best
Communities can do a lot to address healthy food priority areas, but the greatest change can occur when private sector interests get involved and government incentives are in place. The result could be improved food security, nutrition, and health for community members.
About Paul Bulau
Paul Bulau is a culinary entrepreneur, business founder, and company owner/operator known for operational success, collaboration, and team development. After earning a degree in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Paul launched, grew, and sold his first business. For the past 25 years, Paul has served in several management roles with a premier, on-site restaurant company.