According to the United States Department of Agriculture, about 23.5 million people live in food deserts and approximately 2.3 million people live in low-income, rural areas that are more than 10 miles from a supermarket. Food deserts are areas where people have limited access to a variety of healthy and affordable foods. Parts of Tallahassee and Leon County are home to numerous food deserts, which are linked directly to poverty and minority communities with more than 40 percent of the Black and Hispanic populations living below the poverty line, according to the Florida Department of Health in Leon County.
Zachary Kimbrough, a business administration student at Florida A&M University, lives in Adams Place Condominiums on Adams Street, which is on the south side of Tallahassee and is a predominately Black area of the city. He says healthy food choices are difficult and he has few options to choose from.
“It gets stressful when you can’t just go to the grocery store and pick up the food you need, I’m forced to eat McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Taco Bell on the daily,” Kimbrough said. “The south side of Tallahassee has limited options compared to the north side of town. The only grocery stores around me are Piggly Wiggly and Save A Lot but the selection at those stores doesn’t compare to the Publix’s and Walmart’s on the other side of town.”
Brian Henderson, a veterinary technology student at FAMU who also lives in Adams Place Condominiums, says this isn’t his first time dealing with food access problems.
“In my hometown, Bartow, Florida, most of the restaurants and grocery stores were all located on the north side of town,” Henderson said. “There’s little to no options for food on the south side, except for the restaurants clustered on Monroe Street.”
There have been programs and initiatives put in place in the Tallahassee area in an attempt to combat and address local food deserts and food access. They include the Frenchtown Farmers Market.
Located on North Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, the Frenchtown Farmers Market offers and sells fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other food items including eggs and baked goods to the community. They accept SNAP and EBT.
Carolina Vances, a manager at the Frenchtown Farmers Market, says that the market makes healthy food more accessible for members of the Tallahassee community.
“A thing we promote is nutrition overall as well as making food more accessible to everyone, that’s why we have a garden where all the goods that the garden grows is free to local folks that want to pick up anything from here. We also have a pantry where people just stock it up and if they want something they can just grab and go with it,” Vances said. “We accept SNAP and EBT, not many farmers markets do that, so it makes it really hard for those who have it to enjoy a farmers market. The program was started by Feeding Florida, and they created this thing called fresh access bucks, which is used to double SNAP and EBT. If someone has $10 of it, we will double it and give them $20.”
The Frenchtown Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 10-2. More information on the Frenchtown Farmers Market can be found on their Facebook page @FTFarmersMarket.