While many of us know the health benefits of a nutritious and well-balanced diet, not everyone can access better-quality food.
The HHS explains that food insecurity is often a barrier to getting satisfactory nutrition for many families. This security is determined by financial stability, race, ethnicity, and disability. However, neighborhood conditions are another primary cause of food insecurity. Fewer supermarkets, access to public transportation, or a lack of variety in food offerings can be serious obstacles to healthier diets, especially in lower-income communities.
One highly effective and cost-efficient solution to this issue is to increase community access to plant-based foods. Plant-based diets do not necessarily eliminate animal products. Instead, they entail a nutrient intake primarily from plant-based food sources, leading to various health benefits. Here’s how they can help communities become healthier and what we can do to promote them.
Benefits of plant-based diets
A well-planned plant-based diet contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. These diets can benefit community health by providing a diverse range of nutrients. They’re also low in saturated fat and high in fiber, allowing the body to regulate blood sugar better and absorb nutrients. A study published in Missouri Medicine also states that plant-based diets can reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
But plant-based diets don’t just benefit a person’s health. Our article’ Living Healthy Without Spending a Lot’ explains that having a healthy diet is also integral to saving money. Having unhealthy diets, especially for those who belong to low-income communities, can result in potentially expensive health issues. This is why it’s crucial to provide solutions that promote plant-based diets in communities.
How to Promote Plant-Based Diets in Communities
Set up food banks and food pantries
Food banks are storage and distribution centers that solicit food. These supplies are then distributed to food pantries and other community feeding programs. Food pantries play a particularly vital role in providing food to locals experiencing food insecurity. Implementing these initiatives on an institutional level requires the help of social workers trained to execute such initiatives effectively. Maryville University notes that they contribute to community safety by understanding the social determinants of health. By assessing the external factors that challenge access to plant-based diets, they can strategically organize food banks and food pantries that are accessible to those most in need.
Run farmer’s markets
With location and high prices seriously limiting the sustenance of plant-based diets, farmer’s markets can serve as a solution. They not only grant greater access to plant-based food sources, but they also benefit the community economically. The prices of healthy food at farmer’s markets are lower than in supermarkets. They also result in greater returns for growers: farmer’s markets can even serve as an entry point for entrepreneurship to residents who want to sell baked goods, plant-based food products, and other crafts at low start-up costs. By situating these markets strategically so they are accessible via public transport, communities can further maximize their benefits.
Establish community gardens
Community gardens are collective efforts where individuals help grow and harvest food to be distributed to food banks or food pantries. These collaborative efforts not only increase food access but also community morale. A study from the University of Lisbon finds that community gardening is an affordable and efficient way to promote physical and mental health. This is because it connects community members with a common cause, instilling a sense of community. Community gardens also fortify food security and economic resiliency among communities when faced with food crises by serving as an independent food source.
Plant-based diets are great for the health of individuals, but many lack access to good quality foods. By knowing how to promote and increase access to plant-based food sources, communities can benefit holistically from better eating habits.