Food insecurity is a major health concern in the United States. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as, “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.”
Feeding America, a nonprofit organization geared towards addressing food insecurity through their more than 200 food banks across the United States reported in 2017 that one in eight, or 40 million, Americans were considered food insecure. Of these 40 million individuals, over a million people were food insecure in the state of Ohio. These numbers compiled make it to where nearly 15 percent of all Ohioans were food insecure.
The same body of data shows that Meigs County fares even worse than the state in regards to food insecurity. Meigs County had a food insecurity ranking of 16.5 percent, this is two percent higher than Ohio. In 2017 alone, there were almost 4,000 residents who were food insecure within the county.
Thankfully, there are local and regional resources that help to address food insecurity within Meigs County. These two resources are the Meigs County Farmers’ Market and the Community Food Initiatives (CFI).
The Meigs County Farmers’ Market was reestablished this year through the technical and financial assistance of the Meigs County Health Department’s (MCHD) Creating Healthy Communities (CHC) Program. The CHC program has provided almost $9,000 in grant funding for the market for this year. The market provides the entire county of Meigs with a community-oriented environment where they can purchase reasonably priced fresh local produce from the months of May to October. The market currently accepts the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) vouchers. These vouchers allow income eligible seniors to receive $50 to be used at the market. Additionally, the market is in the process of being able to accept the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) vouchers and EBT and food stamp payment methods as well. The Meigs County Farmers’ Market is a great place to not only support local farmers and vendors, but is also a wonderful place to purchase nutritious food sources such as fruits and vegetables. The market is conveniently located on the Pomeroy Levee, and is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. More information about the market can be found on their Facebook page and website, www.meigscountyfarmersmarket.com.
CFI is a nonprofit organization that is located in Athens, Ohio. CFI’s mission it, “to foster communities where everyone has equal access to healthy, local food.” Although the organization has several wonderful programs including: Southeast Ohio FOODLINK, Discovery Kitchen, Community Gardens and Orchards, Gardening and Food Preservation Workshops, School Gardens, YEAH! Kids, Ridge and Hollow Seed Alliance, and Plant and Seed Giveaways, I would like to elaborate on their donation station. Through produce and monetary donations, CFI is able to provide local produce to individuals in need throughout Southeast Ohio. The donation station allows community organizations, such as pantries to come to their location (ACEnet on Columbus Rd in Athens, Ohio) and receive produce to give to clients in need. The MCHD is one such organization that participates in this program. The MCHD’s Community Health Worker (CHW) Program utilizes this resource by getting produce from the donation station and giving it to their high risk type II diabetic patients. A great deal of the CHW participants are rurally isolated and have limited resources. For this reason, the donation station allows these individuals to have access to healthy and nutritious food that encourages healthy lifestyle changes, which is a large component of the CHWs’ efforts as health professionals.
Food insecurity is just one of the vital concerns that the MCHD and their programs are working to address within Meigs County each and every day. To learn more about food insecurity, resources within our community, or the great efforts that the CHW program has and continues to complete please contact the health department at (740) 992-6626 or visit our Facebook and website, www.meigs-health.com.
Ciara Martin, MPH, is the Creating Healthy Communities Project Director at the Meigs County Health Department.