By Rhea Landholm, Center for Rural Affairs
How do we increase healthy, fresh foods in rural America? One way is to identify new opportunities for people to access food. Here are five suggestions for your community.
1. Mobile grocery stores or veggie vans are refrigerated vans or trucks that bring affordable produce into communities at a certain time and day. The stores can be an effective way to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to communities that may not otherwise have access to such produce.
2. Community-Supported Agriculture, or CSAs, function like a magazine subscription—a customer pays in advance for a season of produce deliveries, receiving a “share” from a farmer. The farmer uses that money to grow food, then delivers a weekly box of produce to the customer.
3. Farmers markets create a social environment for community members to access healthy foods and a place for local producers to sell their products. If the food is fresh and affordable, community members are willing to support local farmers and gardeners, which benefits the economy.
4. Food hubs are networks that allow local producers to collaborate on marketing and distribution. Together, growers can supply more produce to meet larger scale wholesale or retail orders. These hubs create an opportunity for communities to simultaneously improve access to local foods and create business for local farmers, distributors, and retailers.
5. Seed banks operate by allowing a person to “check out” seeds, rootstocks, or other plant materials, taking them home to grow, then saving seeds to give back following harvest. Seed banks not only protect such plant materials, but also provide farmers, gardeners, and other growers access to seeds.