Monday, July 6, 2009

Portland-area Food Deserts (Rose)

The Regional Equity Atlas is a local project by the Coalition for a Livable Future. In the health and design chapter of the Regional Equity Atlas, the region's accessibility to affordable and healthy foods is discussed. As this map shows, there are a variety of Portland-area neighborhoods with below average access to groceries and natural food stores. In one section of the chapter, farmers markets are discussed as a possible option for residents in food deserts. While Portland is rightfully proud to be a farmers market-friendly city - many Portland-area farmers markets even accept Oregon Trail food stamps - unfortunately there are a few barriers that prevent accessible and affordable farmers markets from being a viable solution for many of the Portlanders living in food deserts. 

For instance, the Regional Equity Atlas uses the Wilkes neighborhood in North Portland as an example of a local food desert. Wilkes residents live near the Parkrose Farmers Market at NE 112nd and Shaver and could conceivably purchase their groceries there on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., May through October. However, the time limitations could create a barrier for shoppers, and the Parkrose Farmers Market does not accept the Oregon Trail card. Oftentimes shoppers need to pick up a wide variety of goods at once, and if you are strapped for time and money, you will likely choose a "one-stop shopping center." It can also seem impractical to do much shopping at a farmers market if you like to do the bulk of your shopping once a month. A food security study focusing on the North and Northeast neighborhoods found that price and transportation were the barriers to purchasing food, and 3 out of 10 respondents leave their neighborhoods to shop at wholesale supermarkets like Winco. 

In a study conducted by the Portland/Multnomah Food Policy Council, a majority of those surveyed in the Lents neighborhood said they were interested in eating healthier foods. In fact, about half of respondents said they would even grow their own food if they had the opportunity to do so. This significant number of potential at-home gardeners tells us that while farmers markets are invaluable sources for healthy food in Portland, maybe providing resources and opportunities for starting urban gardens would be helpful for our local food deserts.

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