“Healthy Foods Here” in Seattle
A community in Seattle took a common-sense approach to bringing healthier foods to their neighborhood – and in the process, became a model for communities across the country trying to combat “food deserts.” “Food deserts” are communities with limited access to healthy foods or a grocery store.
Before this summer, Seattle’s High Point neighborhood had limited access to healthy food. Fresh fruits and vegetables were particularly hard for residents of this mixed income neighborhood to find close to home.
In July, an organization of High Point residents decided to take action. They called themselves the “Fresh Fruit and Veggies Community Group,” and sought to make fruits and vegetables accessible in their neighborhoods.
The Fresh Fruit and Veggies Community Group surveyed the community, asking members if they would buy fresh produce at the local Walgreens if it were offered, and what types of produce they’d like to buy. The survey came back indicating a strong demand for produce at Walgreens, and within a week, fruits and vegetables were for sale.
High demand for the new options has recently prompted the store to purchase a refrigerated display for the produce, and double their weekly produce deliveries from once to twice per week. A bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables appeared on shelves this summer, including onions, tomatoes, plums, blueberries, peaches, apricots, bananas and apples.
The lessons learned in High Point are now informing the “Healthy Foods Here” initiative, which is part of the nationwide Communities Putting Prevention to Work program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In 44 communities across the country, Communities Putting Prevention to Work grants are expanding the use of evidence-based strategies and programs, mobilizing local resources at the community-level, and strengthening the capacity of states to prevent chronic disease like obesity and heart disease, and promote wellness in both children and adults.
In the Seattle area, the initiative is helping corner stores in food deserts across King County offer healthier selections, including fresh fruits and veggies. Businesses and communities are working collaboratively with Public Health-Seattle & King County and the City of Seattle to introduce healthy foods in areas lacking nutritious options.