Birmingham, AL is experiencing massive growth. That’s no surprise to any Bham Now readers. Recently, the city government passed legislation to meet a need Birmingham residents have—lack of access to fresh and healthy foods.
Growing City, Growing Needs
There are certain elements a city needs to thrive—education, jobs, and development, just to name a few. Birmingham has no shortage of these elements, and they are expanding every single day.
One element to success that wouldn’t immediately come to my mind, at least, is this: access to affordable healthy foods. Healthy citizens make for a healthier community.
Earlier this month, in an 8-0 vote, the Birmingham City Council approved an amendment to help reduce food deserts and improve residents’ access to healthy foods.
The city’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity reports that there are 146,000 Birmingham residents living in food deserts.
“Healthy foods are the cornerstone of a healthy community. What we are trying to do is show our community that healthy residents make healthy workers, which will lead to a healthier economy.’’Josh Carpenter, director of the Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity
The amendment was submitted earlier this year to change the city’s existing zoning ordinance with several goals in mind:
- Recruit new grocery stores in areas where they currently are not
- Reduce the number of dollar stores opening in food deserts, which will allow more grocery stores to enter the market
- Sell produce onsite at community gardens
- Operate farmers’ markets by increasing the number of days per year that they can be open
- Operate mobile grocery stores in residential districts where residents live
What Exactly is a Food Desert?
“Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.”USDA
It’s qualified based on what percentage of residents of any given area live move than a certain distance away from a grocery store.
Alabama has the fifth-highest concentration per capita of dollar stores in the country. Dollar stores typically offer only processed and preserved foods, and a high number of them in an area can keep grocery stores with fresher options away.
By limiting the number of dollar stores opening in the city, this amendment will make Birmingham more appealing to potential grocers.
Birmingham Grocery Expansion
Another initiative aiming to bring more options to food deserts was the announcement that a farmer’s market would be coming to the BJCTA Intermodal. One of the greatest barriers to fresh food is transportation, so bringing the market to the transportation hub is a brilliant concept.
One of the main goals of this amendment is to encourage other fresh and healthy markets to follow in these footsteps and bring better options to all Birmingham communities.
“Making sure that people have access to healthier foods is fundamental to our work in not only recruiting grocery stores but other businesses.’’Josh Carpenter, director of the Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity
Healthy Options in Birmingham to Check Out in the Meantime
Hopefully, with this amendment, healthy foods will become more and more accessible to all Birmingham residents. While we wait, be sure to check out these options for fresh and local produce and other healthy essentials!
- 15 local farmers markets in Birmingham
- 10 community gardens in Birmingham
- Birmingham farmers markets west of Hwy. 65