3 ways fresh food access improves community health

May 24, 2022 | 

The impact of food on health is undeniable: fresh, organic vegetables are powerful medicine. However, when access to food is an issue, it becomes a community issue, and it needs to be solved on a community level. “Inadequate access to healthful foods has been identified as a significant barrier to healthful dietary behaviors. This is why Medical centers and VYCC have partnered for 10 years in a model of holistic care and food access in the local community. 

Deepening the connection between the work happening the fields and the food on our plates is essential. Misha Gajewski speaks on food access on a national level:  This is a time when food insecurity exists simultaneously with an obesity crisis, with only 12% of American adults meeting the daily recommended fruit intake and even less meeting the daily recommended vegetable intake.”1   Farming feeds neighbors and cultivates leaders – and strengthens community along the way. “Access to healthy food can bring triple bottom-line benefits to communities — better health, new jobs, and a revitalized economy.”  (Don Hinkle Brown, Executive Director of The Food Trust)


We asked 2022 Food and Farm Leaders at VYCC for their perspective on this issue, and they all agreed that the Health Care Share is the reason they are here.   


Fiona (she/her) frames the intersection of food and community perfectly: “Food is a human right; it’s a basic need and community can’t function without it. The Health Care Share is a symbiotic relationship. Growing and sharing food, you’re bolstering the health of a community, which comes back to you.” 



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Economic Benefits 

Farming can support the economic health of a community in many ways. In areas where access to food is an issue, most of the available food is imported. By providing direct access to organic produce, community members get good local food, support the farms, and the farms in turn can provide jobs and be a valuable resource in the community. “The benefits from access go beyond health… healthy food retail can serve as economic anchors in a community.” Participants in the Health Care Share gain access to fresh vegetables, and their participation is part of the Corps Member experience. Without them, we wouldn’t have partners or jobs to offer youth. Learn more about our nationally recognized public health initiative here. 


Youth Education  

When young people engage in farming, they develop an appreciation for the food they eat. Engaging young people with farming helps them love the food they eat because it’s also the food they grew: the process is inherently engaging and rewarding. Sage (they/them), Farm Leader, shared their experience engaging youth with the food they eat: “I worked in a preschool that had a garden. I’d bring the kids out to help; really, we played. But including them in the process made them excited to try new fruits and veggies. Even the picky eaters said ‘I grew that snap pea, I’ll try it!’ 



The work that goes into growing food is not easy. However, engagement with the land and the teamwork required creates a powerful feedback loop of gratitude: Andy (he/him), a 2022 Farm Leader, shared: “Last year, after harvesting carrots, my back hurt so much. And the carrots tasted so great. When you put in the work, it is a labor of love. It’s a full circle and tastes much better than buying from the store.” 

The gratitude doesn’t end there, though: all of the recipients of the beautiful produce grown by Andy and his team members will undoubtedly feel grateful for the work that went into growing it, whether they visit our farm stand, receive a Health Care Share through their doctor, or enjoy daily community lunches as a Crew Member. The benefits of gratitude are no joke: it’s well-documented that gratitude improves relationships, social support, and so much more. 



More and more people are realizing the impact of healthy food access on human health, and we look forward to continuing our work in connecting community members with the food we grow. Keri (she/her) shared her experience working on our farm in contrast with other organizations: “I came to VYCC because there is focus and energy on sustainability, food justice, and community. VYCC is bringing those things into one system. Instead of putting a band aid on systemic problems, I’m working on things in a way that actually fixes them. Other farms didn’t feel like they were going far enough for me; they are staying within the problem. I wanted to find a place that was expanding beyond that.” We are so grateful for Keri and her team mates, who help make everything we do possible. If you want to learn more, you can find ways to get involved and support the work we do here. 


Did you enjoy this peek into the work we do? We would love to see you at the farmstand or enjoying a hike on the beautiful trails on our campus! 


For further reading: 

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  1. How Access to Fresh Produce Varies Across America | Stacker 
  2. Increasing access to healthful foods: a qualitative study with residents of low-income communities – PMC (nih.gov) 
  3. Access to Healthy Food Improves Health, Brings Economic Benefits | HuffPost Life 
  4. 28 Benefits of Gratitude & Most Significant Research Findings (positivepsychology.com)