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Many Marylanders Find Themselves Living in a "Food Desert"

March 2, 2012

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - If your weekly trip to the grocery store is quite a trek, you are not alone. A new study finds that Marylanders in both cities and rural areas often experience "food deserts" - meaning residents have to travel 10 miles or more to find a supermarket.

The Food Trust report says improving access to markets would improve health, as well as create jobs and revenue for communities. According to Food Trust program director Miriam Minon, people living in underserved counties eat fewer fruits and vegetables and are more apt to be overweight.

"Residents are likely to experience high rates of diet-related disease, things like diabetes and obesity."

Even when small stores are nearby, the report notes they're not always stocked with a variety of fresh and healthy foods. The study makes recommendations on how to help communities open and support local grocery stores.

A number of successful models pull together both private and public interests, Minon says, and the Trust is working on setting up a program in Maryland. She says it would be similar to the Fresh Food Financing Initiative in Pennsylvania, which helps developers overcome some of the high initial investment costs.

"The program has been able to get stores to open all across the state in previously underserved areas and to help existing grocers who are interested in expanding their offerings."

Improving access isn't a silver bullet to improve eating habits, Minon says, but it is an important factor in reducing obesity.

More information is online at thefoodtrust.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD