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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Farmland’s Critical Role in Healthy Communities

The statistics are staggering.

Over the last 25 years, diet-related chronic disease rates have risen and remain high with nearly half of all American adults having one or more preventable chronic diseases. Only one in 10 adults eat the recommended fruit or vegetables. The economic burden of chronic diseases has climbed to $3.8 trillion in direct and indirect costs or nearly one-fifth of the U.S. GDP.

While we all hear that we need to consume more fruits and vegetables to promote health and prevent chronic diseases, we are not hearing that our country doesn’t have enough of the vegetables we are supposed to eat. While it is recommended that adults consume two to three cups of vegetables a day, only 1.7 cups are available per person. The vegetable supply would need to increase by 70% for Americans to meet the recommended daily amounts.

Prioritizing and protecting farmland is of utmost importance.

Currently, more than half of all the cropland ever created in Maricopa County has been converted to urban or suburban development. Meanwhile, the county’s household food insecurity rates reached 13.7% in 2019 (pre-pandemic). And while Arizona is one of the most agriculturally productive states, much of that food is exported out of state and not available to local communities.

Building and supporting a localized food system and preserving local farmland are the foundation to creating healthy Arizona communities.

How does access to food-producing spaces and farmland affect the health of a community?

  • Access to green spaces and nature improves mental health
  • Food growing spaces positively influence food choices and healthy eating patterns
  • Food self-sufficiency supports healthy eating
  • Agriculture shapes the physical environment that influences overall health
  • Community gardens provide safe spaces and ways to teach children where healthy food comes from

Below are a few practical ways to protect Arizona farmland

Shop Local

Make Your Voices Heard

  • Contact your local City Mayor and Council and/or Maricopa County Supervisors and voice your concern about farmland loss and apply pressure to develop strategies to preserve it, especially for those interested in maintaining agricultural uses.
  • Demand that policymakers address social and environmental problems with transformative, NOT incremental, change that bolsters community-based food systems, improves nutrition security, preserves farmland, and directly supports Arizona local producers.

Support the Movement

About Local First Arizona

Founded in 2003, Local First Arizona is a community and economic development organization working to strengthen local economies. Local First’s areas of focus include environmental action, food access, developing entrepreneurship, rural and urban community development, and racial equity. Local First Arizona is the largest local business coalition in the U.S. and advocates for independently-owned businesses of all sizes by assisting local owners with technical assistance designed to help them compete and collaborate, which ultimately strengthens Arizona’s economy and builds hometown pride. Visit localfirstaz.com for more information and a directory of more than 3,000 locally-owned businesses.

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