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Healthy Food Access

Many New Orleans residents live in neighborhoods that are considered “food insecure.” Residents in these areas are swamped with processed convenience foods that are saturated with sugar, salt, and fat, but they have little or no access to a sustainable source of fresh, healthy vegetables. According to the most recent Map the Meal Gap report by Feeding America, there were 84,850 food-insecure people in Orleans Parish in 2018. That represents 21.3 percent of the population. That’s higher than Louisiana’s rate of 16.5 percent, and nearly double the national rate of 12.3 percent.

Research indicates that a lack of fresh food contributes to poor diet, obesity, and diet-related disease. A 2019 report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that Louisiana had the third highest obesity rate for children ages 10-17 in the nation, at 20.8 percent. The statewide obesity rate was 36.8 percent, according to the report, which makes the state the fourth most obese in the nation.

Home gardening enhances a household’s food security by providing direct access to fresh, healthy foods and increases purchasing power by saving money on grocery bills. Home gardening also contributes to healthy eating habits and increased physical activity and stress relief.

Research shows that children are twice as likely to eat daily recommendations of fruits and vegetables if the food is homegrown. Encouraging children to eat fresh produce has been shown to establish healthy eating choices and improve long-term health.

Growing your own food also increases the nutritional value of your meals. Once fruits and vegetables are harvested, they begin breaking down their own organic material for energy. As a result, the nutrients begin to disappear. Most produce at grocery stores has been transported several hundred miles from the farm, to a warehouse, to your store, which takes about a week on average. Due to this transport time, grocery store produce has often lost almost half of its original nutritional value by the time you purchase it. There is nothing healthier than consuming food that has been freshly harvested.


 
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