National Nutrition Month

by Morgan Taggart

Nourishing Cleveland: Addressing Food Insecurity and Promoting Nutrition Justice

March is National Nutrition Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthy eating habits. While this month serves as a reminder for many of us to prioritize nutrition, for residents of Cleveland, it also sheds light on the ongoing challenges of food insecurity and limited access to fresh, healthy foods.

In recent years, Cleveland has grappled with high rates of food insecurity, with many residents facing barriers such as limited access to grocery stores, insufficient household income, and transportation challenges. The closure of neighborhood grocery stores in Buckeye, Collinwood, Central, West Park and Asiatown has further exacerbated these issues, leaving communities without vital sources of fresh produce and other nutritious foods.

The impact of these closures is felt keenly in neighborhoods like Buckeye, Central, and Kinsman, where access to healthy foods remains a top concern for residents, as highlighted in the Community Health Needs Assessment report completed by CWRU in partnership with Burten, Bell Carr Development in 2023. This report underscores the urgent need for investment in grocery store development and access to fresh, healthy food options.

In response to these challenges, there has been a growing movement to shift the conversation around food insecurity from one focused solely on alleviating hunger to a broader framework of food justice and sovereignty. This reframing acknowledges the systemic issues of power and racism that underlie our current food systems and calls for community-driven solutions that prioritize dignity, choice, and empowerment.

Fortunately, there are numerous initiatives underway aimed at addressing these issues and promoting nutrition justice. From supporting local and urban farmers to implementing SNAP incentive and Produce Prescription programs, there are a variety of strategies being deployed to increase access to fresh, healthy foods in underserved communities. Additionally, efforts to support BIPOC and women-owned food businesses, provide food education classes, and create summer youth employment programs at urban gardens are helping to build community wealth and foster a culture of health and wellness.

As we observe National Nutrition Month, let us not only celebrate the importance of good nutrition but also redouble our efforts to ensure that all Cleveland residents have access to the nourishing foods they need to thrive. By coming together as a community and investing in equitable and sustainable food systems, we can create a healthier, more vibrant future for all.