In the state of Michigan, 1 in 7 people describe themselves as food insecure. This statistic can be attributed to Michigan’s lack of food access in cities across the state. Food access refers to the accessibility and affordability of healthy foods and fresh produce. The percentage of food insecure households within Michigan has steadily risen over the years. Barriers to access may include lack of transportation, cost of healthy foods, cultural values and lifestyle, disability, knowledge or ability to store and prepare foods, built environment, and stigma.
Communities in Michigan with low access to nutritious foods are more likely to develop health problems, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Fast food and liquor stores are also abundant in many of these areas. Regular consumption of low nutrient-dense foods and alcohol can increase risk for premature death and a host of comorbidities. Without access to healthy foods, the cycle of unhealthy diet, health problems, high health costs, and poverty is perpetuated.
Who is experiencing the effects of poor food access?
A recent study conducted by a Michigan State University researcher found that Flint neighborhoods with the highest socioeconomic distress, and proportionately the most African American residents, had the least access to healthy foods. This is especially concerning for young children whose families cannot access recommended foods to fight lead exposure from the ongoing water crisis. In Detroit, the Michigan Department of Agriculture describes 19 neighborhoods as “food deserts,” where residents lack access to affordable produce and other healthy and fresh food options. It is also important to remember that food insecurity is felt beyond low-income urban communities. Rural and remote communities across the state and Upper Peninsula struggle with reliable access to healthy foods as well.
Ways to advocate:
Contact local government officials to create sustainable change for residents.
Stress the importance of food access in cities as well as rural areas
Discuss the negative health effects that food insecurity has on residents
Suggest options for mobile markets and weekly farmer’s market visits in cities that do not have sufficient access or public transportation to fresh foods
Encourage rewards for farmers who grow healthy foods
Support your local and regional food systems.
Volunteer at a local food bank
Get involved with a local organization that helps increase food access through already established institutions, farms, or mobile markets
For more information:
Healthy Michigan provides tips and recipes for healthy eating with families and older adults.
The Food Access in Michigan Project (FAIM) presents research on food access and food insecurity in Michigan.
Food for Every Child Special Report
The Food for Every Child Special Report outlines key findings in the distribution of nutritious food in Michigan.
Food Access. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-choices-health/food-access/
Hunger in Michigan. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.faimproject.org/research/hunger/
Institute of Medicine (US) and National Research Council (US) Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention Actions for Local Governments. (1970, January 01). Actions for Healthy Eating. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK219682/
Manon, M., Church, D., Treering, D. (2015). Food for Every Child: The Need for Healthy Food Financing in Michigan. Retrieved from http://thefoodtrust.org/uploads/media_items/michigan-mapping-final.original.pdf
Michigan State University. (n.d.). Study pinpoints areas in Flint that need better food. Retrieved from https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2018/study-pinpoints-areas-in-flint-that-need-better-food/
Terranella, S. (2018, April 23). Detroit's 'food deserts' are a burden for many. Retrieved from https://www.thesouthend.wayne.edu/features/article_ea5c3c08-46fd-11e8-b44a-bb0dd1413b54.html