Food Deserts in Western MA Leaves Many Families Without Access to Healthy Food
The USDA defines a food deserts as a part of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods. They are typically found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. These areas rely heavily on local convenience stores that provide a wealth of processed sugar- and fat-laden foods that are known contributors to our nation’s obesity epidemic. The USDA has identified several areas right here in Western Massachusetts considered to be food deserts.
As the leader of emergency food assistance in our region, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has been working to reach these communities to ensure that everyone has access to fresh, healthy food. It’s been nearly two years since we launched our pilot program for the Mobile Food Bank — a delivery truck full of fresh and non-perishable groceries from our warehouse in Hatfield, shipped directly to a community site. The program reaches underserved populations throughout our region that don’t have access to fresh, healthy food. These food deserts lack local grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other healthy food providers.
The expanding reach of our Mobile Food Bank illustrates the increasing need for emergency food assistance in our region. At each distribution site, hundreds of people gather in line nearly one hour ahead of time to receive their much-needed groceries. “Grocery store prices have gotten outrageous,” explains a client at a recent distribution in Springfield. “It’s difficult to purchase food when you’re on a fixed income.”
For many people, The Mobile Food Bank serves as their primary — if not, sole — source of fresh produce. “I think fresh produce is something that they would skip, if not for the Mobile Food Bank,” explains one distribution volunteer. “They would buy other food that are more necessary. Vegetables and produce would be an extra thing they couldn’t afford.”
Through continued support from Our Family Foundation by Stop & Shop, our Mobile Food Bank program continues to reach more of our neighbors in need. We have grown in the past two year from the original 4 sites to now serve a total of 10 community locations across Western Massachusetts, serving more than 28,800 households and more than 31,700 children. With additional funding from C&S Wholesale Grocers, distribution has been increased to serve another 1,000 kids.
You have a unique opportunity to support The Food Bank this summer, and help us feed our neighbors in need. In partnership with Hilltown Families, we will be hosting a special Family Volunteer Day summer series. This is a chance to learn about the issue of food insecurity in our region and the impact it has on the community while empowering your family to help address food insecurity in our region. The first of the three special events will take place on Saturday, June 27, from 10am-12noon at Mountain View Farm (393 East St, Easthampton). All ages are welcome, as families are invited to help with a number of possible activities, including weeding, planting and harvesting. Reservations are required by contacting The Food Bank’s Education Coordinator at 413-247-9738 or by signing up here.
To learn more about Family Volunteer Day, including other dates throughout the summer, check out the post, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts & Hilltown Families present Family Volunteer Days!.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Wojcik is the Marketing & Communications Manager at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is committed to feeding our neighbors in need and leading the community to end hunger. Founded in 1982, The Food Bank is the leading provider of emergency food that reaches individuals and families in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties. From their warehouse in Hatfield, they distribute food to their member agencies (which include food pantries, meal sites and shelters) throughout the region. They continue to build a stronger community through a variety of initiatives, including our Mobile Food Bank, SNAP outreach, nutrition education, and our Brown Bag: Food for Elders program.