Many Arizona residents live in food deserts, which are areas that lack healthy, affordable, good-quality food. Having access to nutritious food requires that food be available in the community and that households can afford it. In Arizona, twenty-one and a half percent of households with children are food insecure. Childhood food security and childhood obesity are connected as families may rely on lower cost, less nutritious, high calorie foods.
We worked with the Arizona Department of Agriculture to host a Food Desert Summit on July 13 that included participants from multiple state agencies as well as community partners. Issues as complex as food deserts require coordination and collaboration across all sectors that includes public, private, and non-profit partners. In addition to reviewing the newly designed Food Desert GIS Map, the group explored the current state of food deserts in Arizona, identified barriers to addressing food deserts as well as actionable items to work on in the next one to five years.
Our staff will continue to support the Arizona Health Improvement Plan by working to increase availability of affordable healthy food retail. This includes supporting school and community gardens, improving access and use of farmer’s markets, and partnering with local stores—both big and small—to offer healthier options.