GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Making healthy choices at meal time can be difficult even when you are surrounded with plenty of good choices.
But for families that don’t have access to healthy foods, the challenge is nearly impossible.
“We spend $3 billion annually in Michigan on obesity-related medical costs and that’s only going to get higher,” said David Hodgkins, government relations director for the American Heart Association.
To tackle the growing problem, the American Heart Association, some local lawmakers and farmers markets are pushing to provide families better access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
House Bill 5180 would offer low-interest loans and grants to support the creation of more pop-up corner markets, produce refrigeration systems for existing stores and expansion of farmers markets.
“A lot of times these farmers markets exist in these under-served communities, but if they don’t have the technology, that’s a community base they’re not able to reach,” explained Hodgkins.
Right now, only half of Michigan’s farmers markets are equipped to handle Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cards and Bridge cards.
The Fulton Street Farmers Market is ahead of the curve, but they want to make sure the push to get fresh produce into the hands of everyone continues.
“It’s a win-win. It not only benefits the customer, but it’s also keeping that money local and in the hands of our local small-scale farmer,” said Melissa Harrington, manager of the Fulton Street Farmers Market.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $1.8 million people in Michigan and more than 300,000 kids live in areas with inadequate access to fresh foods.