By: Hannah Klaus & Jhana Parikh, YES! Graduated Youth Staff
On Friday morning, a student in Halifax County wakes up early for school. She’d like to eat breakfast, but can’t; the closest grocery store is at the border of Northampton County, and her mom hasn’t had time to go since last week. She tries to stop her stomach from growling in her classes, but she can’t concentrate on her work because she doesn’t have the energy. She eats in the cafeteria for lunch, before going home to finish her homework. For dinner, her mom makes a can of soup for her and her brother.
At the same time, a student in Wake County wakes up early for school. His mom makes eggs and fresh fruit for breakfast, which he eats before leaving. His stomach is fine during his classes, and he has the energy to focus on his work. He’s packed a turkey sandwich, carrots, and a brownie for lunch, which will give him enough protein and carbs for soccer practice after school. For dinner, his mom makes beef stew.
Youth need access to a wide variety of nutrient-rich food to fuel their growing bodies and minds. Students are more energized and ready to learn when they are able to eat a healthy diet. Access healthy food depends on the proximity and quantity of grocery stores available in a given area, as well on the affordability of the food.
The North Carolina Alliance for Health recently released its 2017 North Carolina Food Access Maps. The maps display supermarket sales and diet-related deaths across the state. The results reflect the disparities exemplified by the experiences of the Halifax and Wake County students. There are large areas in NC, in both urban and rural areas, where healthy food is hard to come by. In many of the low-income areas of our state, there are few or no grocery stores and, consequently, residents are suffering from diet-based diseases. The lack of grocery stores in low-income areas means that residents that are less able to afford the commute to the closest grocery store.
Currently 23 percent of North Carolinians live in areas with limited or no access to supermarkets and healthy food. At the same time, 30 percent of North Carolina children are overweight or obese. Making healthy food more accessible will improve the diets of North Carolina children and will result in positive health outcomes. Areas that have fewer grocery stores tend to have more corners store that have the potential to sell fresh food and produce. Healthy Corner Store Initiative will improve access to healthy, local food for all North Carolinians by helping small convenience and corner store owners to sell healthy, local products, some of which can come from local farmers or fishermen. Let your representatives know that you support the state-supported Healthy Corner Store Initiative.