By Charles Sterne, Homelessness director at United Way of Greater Atlanta, and Lauren Wood, MARTA Market Director for Community Farmers Markets
Food insecurity, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, is the lack of consistent access to adequate food for an active, healthy life. In Georgia, according to Feeding America, 12% of the population was considered food insecure in 2019 and that number rose significantly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, including a 58% increase in food insecurity for children† During the heart of the pandemic, United Way of Greater Atlanta partnered with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to invest significant funds in agencies that provided emergency food assistance and improved access to food in the metro region. Now that we are no longer on the emerging side of the pandemic, United Way continues to focus on ways to improve access to food by investing in economic stability through our basic needs and equitable access.
In our most recent 2022 Child Welfare Request for proposalswe have invested in agencies that increase access to healthy and affordable food in communities with little to very little Well-being of children† These are communities that are also often considered “food deserts,” meaning there is a lack of affordable and nutritious food that is easily accessible to residents. Community Farmers Markets (CFM), one of our newest beneficiaries, has taken a creative and collaborative approach to food access through its MARTA Markets program, which, in partnership with MARTA, sells local products at transit stations. According to Lauren Wood, MARTA Market Director for CFM, these markets have become “a vital resource to the community, supplying more than 250,000 pounds of fresh food to more than 180,000 customers since their inception in 2015”. Not only do these markets provide access to healthy food in convenient locations, but they also double the value of SNAP/EBT benefits for low-income individuals and families. In this way, the markets not only contribute to the health of customers by providing fresh fruits and vegetables, but also ensure financial stability for families by helping to increase the value of public benefits.
MARTA Markets expanded into DeKalb County this year and Ms. Wood said that “funding from United Way of Greater Atlanta will allow us to build a new kiosk at Kensington Station, expected to open in August. Between Kensington and the newly opened location at Doraville station, we expect greater access to fresh food for more than 2,500 people in those communities by the end of 2023.”
We at United Way are proud to partner with Community Farmers Markets in these efforts that will help create a more food-safe region in Atlanta. We hope you take the time to visit one of their 6 – soon 7 –locations this summer for some fresh, affordable and local food.