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Access to fresh food lacking in parts of Ohio

Access to fresh food lacking in parts of Ohio
Posted April 11th, 2014 @ 3:08am by WTVN Newsroom

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- The economy may be recovering, but there is still high demand for Ohio's foodbanks.

A recent survey from Gallup looked at the areas of the country where it is hardest to get access to fresh fruits and vegetables. While no Ohio cities made the top 10 list, the Huntington, WV/Ashland, KY/Ironton, OH metro area did. When you look at much of southeastern Ohio you find the right conditions for lack of access to affordable fresh food.

"High poverty rates, lower overall incomes and sparse population," said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

She pointed to southeastern Ohio's Vinton County as an example. The county no longer has a full-service grocery store forcing people who live there to either drive to Jackson, Chillicothe, or Athens. That's a drive many cannot afford to make. It's a similar struggle for those having a hard time paying their bills.

"Those dollars have to come from somewhere and unfortunately for far too many Ohioans it's coming out of their food budget," she said.

The other issue is the cost of food. Halmer-Fugitt says food prices have skyrocketed 18 percent in recent years while paychecks have not been keeping up with that pace. Processed and unhealthy food tends to be cheaper than fresh produce and she blames that for increasing obesity and overall declining health of those in high poverty areas.

"We need to ensure that individuals have access to the foods that they need to treat their diet-related diseases, not more medication."

Hamler-Fugitt says their network of emergency food banks have been trying to focus more on getting healthier, fresh foods into areas that otherwise wouldn't have much access to it.

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