Healthy food is scarce or wholly unavailable for many families in America, and The Food Trust is trying to change that by partnering with schools, communities, supermarkets, farmers markets, and health care groups to bring healthy food to all corners of the country. Jessica says she is inspired by The Food Trust's programs that help people access and afford healthy food and make healthy decisions.
Can you talk about the connection between food access and public health?
The foods we consume are absolutely central to our health. We know that under-resourced communities — those without access to nutritious options — suffer disproportionately worse health outcomes: According to a 2020 report by the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health, poor diet is now the leading cause of poor health, resulting in more than half a million deaths per year. This is why improving nutrition security — including access to, affordability of, and education about healthy foods — is essential to building healthy communities.
What can we do as individuals to bring healthy food options to our communities?
One easy step individuals can take is to buy locally and support local producers at farmers markets, mobile markets and community supported agriculture programs (CSAs). Adding local purchasing to your routine increases supply and demand, bolsters the local economy and generates employment opportunities for community members. To dig deeper, look up your local food policy council and get involved! These collaborative efforts focus on everything from developing community and school gardens, to increasing enrollment in food assistance programs, to creating new forms of insurance for local producers and much more.
What kinds of policy changes should we advocate for to further your mission of providing healthy food to all?
In the short term, we should be advocating for the continuation of the flexibility and waivers of nutrition and food security programs implemented during COVID — for example, Child Nutrition Authorization, the Older Americans Act and waivers that govern SNAP, TANF and WIC.
In Pennsylvania, The Food Trust continues to advocate for healthy food access through a variety of policy initiatives, including for nutrition incentives (ensuring all Pennsylvanians can increase their healthy food purchasing power through our Food Bucks program and other similar incentives programs for SNAP participants) and healthy food financing (helping entrepreneurs and food retailers build or expand stores in under-resourced communities).
Where do you hope to take The Food Trust in the future?
Our organization is at an exciting time in its life cycle. Just as the healthy food access landscape is ever-evolving, The Food Trust is remaining nimble to best serve our communities: With a new strategic plan being unveiled in the new year, we are focusing our work on systems change, community-led projects, and cross-sector partnerships that address all the inequitable structures that prevent individuals from thriving — from healthy food access and housing to education and workforce development. By working together with current and new partners, we can make the biggest impact in communities across the country.