Posted on Sep 07, 2023, 2 p.m.
As individuals, we know the importance of eating good food. What you eat plays a critical role in your overall health and well-being. What you might be less aware of, however, is how important food is to the health and strength of entire communities as well.
Unfortunately, not all communities have access to good food. Furthermore, the way a lot of food is produced and sold today can also harm the environment and the sustainability of communities.
On the other hand, food has the potential to build stronger, more resilient communities. Let’s dive more into this connection and how to build healthier, happier, and more sustainable communities by improving access to good food.
The Link Between Good Food and Stronger Communities
A 2017 study conducted by the University of Oxford’s Psychology department suggests that social eating plays an important role in community bonding and the development of community life. In other words, when communities offer more ways for people to come together over food, they are generally happier and the bonds between the people in the community are stronger.
Oxford researchers also noted that when social networks are strengthened in a community through access to good food, it also improves the physical and mental wellness of those people. Thus, sharing food doesn’t just strengthen bonds, but it strengthens minds and bodies as well.
The UN as well, promotes the power of good food bringing communities together. They believe that when communities prioritize sharing food and improving access to food, it helps people in the community live healthier and reach their potential, strengthens the community as a whole, helps to power the economy, and protects the planet. They even host a Food Systems Summit to spread awareness and bring people together to make good food more accessible in communities across the globe.
Sharing food also promotes diversity. Many cultures celebrate their traditions through eating and sharing food, thus sharing these traditions in the community helps bring people together, enabling them to be more understanding and accepting of one another. When there is less tension in communities due to prejudice, the people in the community are more likely to work together rather than against one another simply because of their differences.
The sharing of good food often results in spaces where people can come together to connect, share, and learn — and this is critical as these connections lead to profound bonds that make communities stronger and more resilient. Developing food businesses and access to food in a community can also help fuel economic growth by creating more jobs, boosting local spending, and invigorating neighborhoods.
How to Improve the Health and Strength of a Community Through Food
Food is a commonality that can cross barriers in any community and bring people together. It can support economic growth and social connection, and foster diversity and inclusion. Below are a few ways food can be used to have a more positive impact on communities.
Host Farmer’s Markets and Other Events
Hosting a weekly farmer’s market is an excellent way to help the community. Farmer’s markets help support local food vendors and farms, they provide people with access to fresh, healthier food, and they work like a social event as well to help strengthen connections. Other community events can also help build better bonds and improve access to food, such as cultural events, community-wide food initiatives hosted by local organizations, and community fairs and festivals.
Improve Accessibility and Food Literacy
On a larger scale, local municipalities can help by improving infrastructure to make access to food more accessible. This includes improving public transportation so people can more easily access health food stores, farmer’s markets, or other offerings. They can also work to bring more healthy food businesses to local communities and partner with organizations to combat food insecurity.
Local hospitals can also help by providing healthier food options. Increasing plant-based offerings, for example, has been shown to help improve community health outcomes. Doctors can also work with patients to improve their food literacy. When people better understand the importance of nutrition, it can have a more positive impact on their lives and the community.
Build a Community Garden
Another excellent way to improve access to healthy food and bring people together is to establish a community garden or multiple community gardens throughout the city. There are numerous benefits to community gardens, such as:
- Creating more green space for the environment
- Making fresh produce more accessible
- Promoting healthier lifestyles
- Boosting knowledge and learning about gardening
- Teaching people how to live more sustainably
- Enabling people to alleviate stress by promoting a connection to nature
Even the initial act of planning to build the community garden can benefit the community. It brings people together and boosts engagement as they work to map out where the garden will go and what resources they need to build it. This can also educate people about the land and how to be more eco-conscious when building the garden.
For example, gardening isn’t just about the plants and the soil, but about the structures you use to contain the garden as well. This includes the fencing that will be used to designate and control access to the garden space and even the materials used to build the garden beds.
These structures will benefit the community more if they are constructed using more sustainable materials such as recycled wood or even bamboo. Using more sustainable materials like this can be more cost-effective, they are easier to source, and they will have less of a damaging impact on the environment and thus, less of a damaging impact on the community.
Food is more than sustenance. It connects us. There are countless ways that improving access to good food can positively impact a community and even society as a whole, helping us build a better and brighter future.
This article was written for WHN by Charlie Fletcher who is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and her search for the truth. You can find more of her writing on her Contently.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
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