Food Yoga- Food Deserts

food-desert-1

Living on less that $35 weekly (for food) in the middle of Hunger Action Month helped me understand what it means to live on an near impossible meal budget.

In this fast paced world driven by instant gratification it can be easy to consume processed foods because that’s what’s readily accessible. Compound that with the stresses of everyday life and healthy habits can take a back seat.

I made a conscious effort to find foods that could support a vegan lifestyle and met the budget restrictions I was under.

But, there was one thing I didn’t have to worry about. Healthy food was outside my doorstep. Across the street there’s an ethnic grocery store that had fresh bok choy for 2 bucks. More Thai basil than I know what to do with for 1.50. Peeled garlic that will last a week for 1.25.

And I haven’t even mentioned the large grocery store that is within biking distance.

Or the green markets on Wednesdays.

You get the picture.

But if I lived 1.5 miles away, it’s an entirely different story. There are parts of my hometown that don’t have the bus service that I have or the easy access to the markets and stores. Have a craving for Mickey Ds, KFC, Wendy’s, White Castle, or Taco Bell. Well then my friend, you’re in luck. You will need to hold onto that luck to find some decent veggies and groceries that are marked up (If you can find a grocery store)

Welcome to a food desert. A food desert is defined by the USDA as :

Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.

Check out the map below, all over the country there are areas where people in both urban and rural settings don’t have easy access to fresh food.

no car and supermarket

So now let’s take another look at that $4.50 a day that many folks can spend on food. If you can’t get to the store and you are surrounded by fast food a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese off the Dollar menu seems like a viable option. The next part of the story is fairly obvious, no?

Teaching Tolerance has done interesting research on obesity and access.

Studies show that certain racial groups are disproportionately affected by obesity. These problems may be worse in some U.S. communities because access to affordable and nutritious food is difficult. This is especially true for those living in low-income communities of color and rural areas with limited access to supermarkets, grocery stores or other food retailers that offer the large variety of foods needed for a healthy diet such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fresh dairy and lean meat products. Instead, individuals in these areas may be more reliant on convenience stores, fast food or similar retailers, or they may not have enough money to afford the higher prices. These areas of limited access are called “food deserts.”

But there are groups of people out there that are taking steps for change.

Yoga has a place in all of this. when you move your body, learn how to breathe and take time to connect you start to make better decisions. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that a chain reaction can happen in the other direction.

September is Hunger Action Month.

Namaste y’all.

*Do you live in a food desert and maintain a vegan lifestyle? I’d love to hear how you make it work- send me an email or leave comments.

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Vegan Diaries – Eat Deliciously with the Seasons

root veggies

I love restaurants that have a seasonal menu. That usually means they shop at local farms. It also tells me they put some thought into the menu.

I’ve applied that same way of thinking to my kitchen. The result? Eating seasonally is a great way to be healthy on a budget.

Let’s face it, buying tropical fruit in the middle of the winter is going to be expensive.

Instead, buy what’s local and fresh. Your food will taste better, cost less and help your local economy!!

At first it may take a litlle planning. But don’t get overwhelmed, your local farmers market is a great place to stock up each week (This also makes the planning easier- you have to cook what you get that week)

No green markets in the area? Many grocery stores also have a local produce section (even the big chains). This makes the process painless! Your family will also look forward to your favorite seasonal dishes!! Frozen seasonal veggies are also a great way to go. Frozen spinach, frozen kale and frozen squash are nice additions to your freezer. They cook fast and are flexible.

I’m a big fan of soups and stews when the temperatures drop. Huge. Ginormous. They are easy, flavorful and easy on the pockets.

Also I run a veggie into the ground, flipping the script as it were.

Roasted pumpkin, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pureé over pasta, pumpkin muffins, roasted pumpkin slices in a wrap…..You get the idea. And pumpkins last for-ev-ver…

sandlot-forever-o

Disparities in food wealth have always bothered me.

Green markets are the new train tracks. After spending just one week on a tight food budget, more than ever I know that taking about healthy accessible food is a service that we owe to each other.

So stay tuned for more recipes that are easy, cheap and delicious.

Namaste y’all.

This New York Times video with Michael Pollan is a great clip on staying healthy in the supermarket.