Rural Food Deserts

Feb 28, 2013

You would think that in a place like Southwestern Virginia, more people would have access to nutritious, locally grown food.  But food deserts are not just an urban problem, they exist here as well.  

The Blacksburg Farmer’s exemplifies the cornucopia of local produce available to people who live near it, but leave this relatively affluent area and you’ll find that in some parts of Montgomery county, fresh, locally grown food is hard to come by.  The “friends of the farmer’s market” is the non –profit, which supports its twice-weekly appearance here. It’s leading a coalition that will dig deeper into the question of why this bounty is not reaching more people in the county.

"The study is a way to see how it can be done, how we can make those connections between the food that we’re producing and feeding our own residents," says Jessica Schultz, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer assisting with the year-long inquiry.

Over the next year, working with Virginia Tech, and social service agencies, teams will survey farmers, low- income residents and examine other key links in the food chain.

Results of the research won’t be available until 2014, but the Blacksburg Farmer’s market is already making changes to help make locally grown and raised food available to more people.  It recently began accepting food stamps.  Now, it will double the value of those food stamps for purchases at the market, thanks to a local consortium of community groups that will provide the funding.