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6 Ways to Eat Healthy When Living in a Food Desert

mother and daughter at a farmers market

My daughter and I volunteered at a local food bank, and we discovered that we live in a food desert. The closest grocery store is 15 miles away, and that makes it difficult for families without transportation. The only other option in our area is a local Dollar General that was just built a year ago. Luckily it stocks a few vegetables and fruit, but it's not enough for our entire community to use a resource. This can cause children to have to wait until they go to school to find a healthy and nutritious meal. This made me want to ask experts, "What are some tips for finding nutritious food when you live in a food desert?" From visiting a local food bank to locating a farmer’s market, here are six answers to the question.

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Tips for Finding Food in a Food Desert

Locate the Nearest Farmers Market

One tip for finding nutritious food when living in a food desert is to look for local farms and farmers' markets in the area. They not only offer discounted prices, but some even accept food stamps. These places provide fresh, local produce that is a healthier option than store-bought food. Any fresh food is nutritious. The more processed the food is, the lesser its nutritional value. If there are no local farms in the area, many grocery stores now offer delivery services, which makes getting healthy food more accessible.

Finally, it may also be worth looking into grocery delivery services specific to food deserts, such as Imperfect Foods, which offers discounted produce.

- William Toro Quientero, Sports & Nutrition Editor, Welcyon

Visit a Local Food Bank

To find healthy food, search for local food banks in your area. Some food banks, like aquaponics farms or farms to food banks, serve those less fortunate to find food at low or no cost.

These types of nonprofits farm the food they provide to the local community and look for volunteers to help with farming. If you volunteer at a food bank, most of them also provide you with additional food resources to compensate you.

- Annette Harris, Founder, Harris Financial Coaching

Eat Staple Foods, Buy in Bulk, and Shop Online

One way to eat well while saving money is sticking to staple foods like beans, rice, nuts, and seeds. Bulk buying and online shopping can be great ways to access healthy foods while living in a food desert.

Buying in bulk allows you to buy large quantities of food at a discounted rate, which can help stretch your budget further and reduce your visits to the store. You can find bulk items at a grocery store, wholesale club, or online websites like Vitacost and Amazon.

Online shopping can provide access to healthy foods that may otherwise be unavailable in a food desert. Additionally, Amazon accepts SNAP EBT as a payment method for eligible items in certain states.

Another option is to use online delivery services, such as Instacart, which can deliver groceries from local stores directly to your door. These options can help make healthy eating accessible in food deserts without breaking the bank.

- Michaela Ramirez, MD, Founder, O My Gulay

Buy Canned, Frozen, and Dried

Not only will your stomach like it, but your wallet will appreciate it too. These foods are healthier and cheaper than most fresh products commonly unavailable in a food desert. Food items like this are frozen at peak ripeness when they’re the most nutritious. The same applies to dried and canned products. What’s also good, frozen produce is already cleaned and chopped, so using it can drastically speed up meal preparation. Additionally, frozen, dried, and canned foods have longer shelf lives. It means fewer trips to the grocery store. Sounds like a dream come true in this hectic life, doesn’t it?

- Agata Szczepanek, Community Manager, LiveCareer

Start a Garden or Find a Community Garden

One tip that can help is to start a garden. Not only will this give you a source of fresh fruits and vegetables, but it will also help you get some exercise.

If you don't have a lot of space, you can start with a few potted plants on your balcony or porch. Another option is to join a community garden. This can be a great way to meet new people and learn about different gardening techniques.

And, of course, you can always shop at farmers' markets or online retailers that specialize in healthy food options. By taking the time to find nutritious food, you can improve your health and well-being.

- Jim Campbell, CEO, Campbell Online Media

Use Amazon Fresh to Deliver Your Healthy Eating Options

These days, it would amaze you how easy it is to order healthy food from Amazon Fresh. Even if you feel you live in a geographical area with no nutritious food options, chances are you can place an order for groceries to be delivered right to your doorstep. Although it may be slightly more expensive to get food delivered, it is always better to eat healthier than settle for less.

- Bridget Reed, Co-Founder & VP of Content, The Word Counter

If you found these tips helpful or know of any other resources that can help families find nutritious foods, leave a comment below.

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