Study: Produce Access Major Problem in Lansing Area

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Imagine you live in northwest Lansing and you don't have a car.

In order to get groceries home you have to walk or take a bus, carrying groceries and possibly managing kids the whole way. And without a Meijer or Kroger within a couple of miles in any direction, your best food options are a convenience store, a liquor store or a fast food restaurant.

Not the healthiest options.

There are tens of thousands of people living in Lansing in that exact situation. They live in what's known as a "food desert", a place without easy pedestrian access to healthy food options.

An MSU study conducted by Phil Howard and Kirk Goldsberry mapped out where these food deserts are in Lansing, conducting a CAT-scan of sorts on the food environment in the area.

"Southwestern and Northwestern Lansing are particularly difficult," said Goldsberry, an assistant professor of geography. "There are square mile stretches without retailers who sell fresh produce."

Even densely populated areas of East Lansing have similar problems with walkable produce access.

The recent bankruptcy of L&L Food Center didn't help things.

"It put a lot more geographical areas at risk," said Goldsberry. "They might've not seemed like great supermarkets on the surface but what they were were oases in tight areas of produce access."

This problem is causing the Northwest Initiative to take action. The group was able to get Quality Dairy to partner with local farmers to sell some fresh fruits and vegatables. It also took another important.

"We started working with the children on nutritional education through gardening," said Peggy Vaughn-Payne, executive director for Northwest Initiative.

The effort included distributing healthy recipe cards and introducing the community to vegetables it hadn't had access to before. They found that it worked wonders in schools.

"We found that children really enjoy gardening and also if they grow it, they'll eat it,' said Vaughn-Payne.


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