Project updates, commentaries, events and news about health across the nation from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps team.

National Farmers Market Week (August 7-13)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tis the season. Tomatoes are ripening, peaches are juicy, and the zucchini just won't quit. There's nothing like fruit and veggies fresh from the garden, for the taste buds and for your health. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack knows the importance of fresh foods in our diets and named this week National Farmers Market Week. Markets across the country are hosting events to raise awareness of the crucial need farmers markets meet.

Studies consistently show that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart disease, stroke, obesity, some types of cancer and control blood pressure. The County Health Rankings measure access to healthy food and one of the best ways to access nutritious foods is through farmers markets. Farmers markets provide people with fresh, local options and facilitate strong relationships between farmers and communities.

As the Rankings show us, easily accessible healthful food options are essential for community health. Not surprisingly, people eat what is available to them. And too many counties have few or no options for readily accessible and healthy food.

To help communities see how many of their residents have access to these foods, the Rankings provide a national benchmark of 92%--only 10% of counties have a higher percent of zip codes with healthy food outlets. State by state, the numbers are shocking. In some counties, less than 25% of zip codes have healthy food outlets.

What’s more, a recent Health Affairs study shows that even if fresh, healthy options are available, many people simply cannot afford them. Researchers from the University of Washington found that when people who primarily eat processed food increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, their grocery bills go up.

Farmers markets don’t only promote good health; they are affordable because consumers are buying seasonal foods directly from the source. Communities should promote and expand access to local options for fresh food like farmers markets. Learn more about the limited access to healthy food measure, and then go find yourself a farmers market and grab some of those tomatoes while they're still in season. 


Image courtesy of NatalieMaynor's photostream, Creative Commons