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FINDING HEALTH IN A FOOD DESERT

In Franny’s Baltimore City neighborhood, she can walk to a half dozen fast food restaurants. There are plenty of corner stores selling everything from potato chips to soft drinks, too. But when it came to finding fresh fruits and vegetables, Franny was out of luck.

Franny, like an estimated one out of four Baltimore City residents, lives in what’s called a “food desert” — neighborhoods where it’s difficult to find affordable, high-quality, fresh food. In central Maryland, an estimated 345,000 people don’t have access to healthy food. And the challenge only grows from there: When families don’t have nutritious foods, kids often have a hard time focusing in school and don’t have the energy they need to learn and grow.

Fortunately, since United Way of Central Maryland’s Access to Healthy Food Initiative partnered with the Farm Alliance of Baltimore City, Franny and her neighbors can buy fresh fruits and vegetables from urban farm stands right in their neighborhood.

The Access to Healthy Food Initiative aims to source more local, healthy food, improve distribution, and increase access and affordability. In Franny’s case, she now receives “double dollars” on healthy purchases through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), helping her and her family eat better for less. Now, when Franny wants to pick up dinner for her family, she bypasses the corner store and purchases affordable, healthy ingredients from the local farm stand instead.

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