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Throughout the course of nearly two dozen community planning projects, Sustainable Long Island has identified common issues among communities across the region. One of these common problems is the issue of food equity – the notion that access to fresh produce and healthy food options is not universal and that some communities are at a disadvantage in the regional food system. In light of the severe economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, the need to address the issue of food security in Long Island’s distressed communities became an urgent and pressing need. During the summer of 2009, Sustainable Long Island launched an assessment of the current food system on Long Island to identify challenges and potential solutions.
Communities with limitations in resources, disposable income, language, and transportation often have restricted access to, and knowledge about, a variety of healthy food options.
While there is general agreement that consumption of fresh, healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains are necessary for health and nutritional well-being, some communities across the region, have negative health and economic consequences caused, at least in part, by a lack of access to high-quality food. Supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and community gardens tend not to be as readily available to people in low income, low access communities. The result can be an over-dependence on neighborhood convenience stores with limited offerings of fresh foods sold, frequently for a high price, leading to myriad health and nutritional and long-term sustainability implications.
Many Long Island residents now face barriers to accessing healthful and nutritious foods, and the current economic crisis has only intensified food insecurity; putting a growing number of Long Islanders at risk for hunger, limited food access, and related social, economic and health consequences:
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