Government assistance programs with partnerships with the locals farmers’ market and increased marketing toward children and youth of eating healthy habits – instead of messages of filling up on unhealthy snacks like candies and soda – are just some of the ways that accessibility to healthy food is turning around the health of the nation. These types of programs are taking the spotlight and laying the foundation for healthy eating habits for people no matter where they live and for years to come.

Healthy eating – it’s often portrayed as a choice, but for many with low-income jobs, healthy eating is dictated by what they can afford. Sometimes, a family’s paycheck isn’t able stretch to pay for fresh fruit or vegetables – and those hard-earned dollars go toward the less expensive, shelf-ready foods. These types of foods are known to have processed ingredients to preserve flavor and shelf life, but over time, these unnatural ingredients and chemical additives can take a toll on people’s health, causing allergies, promoting insulin resistance, increasing belly fat – just to name a few.

That’s why the U.S. government is looking to change the health of the nation through accessibility to healthy food. The White House noticed this issue in 2010: Part of the problem with healthy eating is the lack of healthy, affordable food in certain communities. A community’s health is only as good as what they are able to buy. In many urban neighborhoods, the lack of grocery stores pushed people toward buying their food at local convenience stores and gas stations – these are places that don’t have a lot of fresh foods. Studies have shown that children have an increased risk of obesity in adulthood when they lack fresh foods in their diet. With the help of a federal grant, a fresh food grocery store chain opened in a Philadelphia neighborhood. The move was able to transform the area from a “food desert” – meaning a place with lack of a grocery store – into a thriving community with jobs and accessibility to fresh food.

Healthy Foods: chicken breast sage spinach.

chicken breast sage spinach. Photo: Foodies Feed

Accessibility hasn’t stopped there – more programs and companies are helping to remove income or location barriers that often limit access to healthy or fresh food. Here are some of the trends that are making headlines:

Oklahoma Food Assistance Program Partners With Farmers’ Markets

With the help of a federal grant, the food assistance program in Oklahoma has expanded its benefits to enable program participants to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at local farmer’s markets. Shopping at local farmers’ markets allows program participants to meet the farmers and growers who produce the food. The program’s expansion of benefits to include farmers’ markets helps out local farmers and also helps people make healthier food choices.

Companies Promote Food Accessibility

Accessibility is a barrier to healthy eating, and an increasing number of companies are starting to bridge the gap between convenience and affordability. Subscription box services, for example, send fresh ingredients to the doorstep – all you need to do is follow the recipe. No need to go out to shop for additional ingredients. Another food tech company hampton creek strives to place its line of products of gluten-free, dairy-free shelf-ready products at mainstream grocery stores. Hampton Creek’s most well-known product Just Mayo is an eggless mayonnaise in which the creamy texture is replicated by a yellow pea protein, which makes Just Mayo a tasty alternative for those allergic or avoiding eggs. The company has an increasing number of shelf-ready products in the pipeline – such as cake mixes, pancake mixes, and salad dressings – that contain a minimum amount of additives compared to other brand counterparts.

Study Finds Marketing Tactics Influence Youth to Make Healthy Food Choices

It’s no secret that commercials and cartoons have a great impact on children – so why not use that toward promoting healthy habits? A recent study found that using banners and videos of animated characters to promote healthy food choices influenced the food choices of elementary school children: in schools that used banner and videos to promote healthy eating, the number of elementary school children who ate from the school cafeteria salad bar increased from 10 percent to 35 percent. The study shows an accessible way for schools to promote eating vegetables and influencing children to make healthy food choices.

Awareness of healthy eating isn’t the only influence in changing one’s diet. These are just a few of the examples of companies and programs realizing that the nation’s health depend on the accessibility of nutritious foods.