As family physicians, we were encouraged by the Nov. 29 Mountain Xpress article highlighting consequences of food deserts in Buncombe County [“Nutritional Wastelands: Local Agencies Battle Health Woes of Food Deserts in WNC”].
While there are many organizations that provide healthy options for patients here in Western North Carolina, our patients still face barriers to these services. Just [recently], one author met a patient from Candler who could name her community resources but faced persistent access barriers due to long work hours.
The Healthy Food Small Retailer Program helps to fill this gap by enabling local store owners to supply healthy foods in low-resource areas at a reasonable cost. Improved funding to this program would expand existing services by financially supporting store owners with fresh-produce shelving, storage, marketing and food distribution. We hope that program expansion would support our patients by providing affordable, high-quality nutrition at more convenient locations.
We see firsthand the repercussions of poor access to healthy foods for our patients. While we have medications to treat many medical conditions, there is no substitute for a healthy diet. We have a long way to go before all food deserts are eliminated in North Carolina; this bill is an important step forward. We hope the citizens of our community will join us in asking our representatives to support this important program expansion.
— Ben Doolittle, D.O.
Matt Roe, M.D.
Alyssa Shell, M.D., Ph.D.
Rebecca Thomson, M.D.