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Food Systems: Healthy Food,
Healthy Communities

Many Maricopa County residents, especially children, have limited access to healthy, affordable foods and beverages. Limited access to nutritious food can result in poor health. Studies have found that low-income and underserved communities often have limited access to stores that sell healthy food, especially high-quality fruits and vegetables. The Food Systems team in the Office of Community Health Innovation is working to address this issue in coordination with planners, local government officials, food retailers, food policy councils and other stakeholders to ensure a healthy food environment in our community.

Maricopa County Food System Coalition

Healthy Retail | Farmers' Markets | School, Community and Home Gardens | Farm to School / Farm to Pre-School


Healthy Retail

The purpose of the healthy food retail initiative is to increase community access to affordable, healthy foods and promote nutritious foods in small- and large-scale food outlets. Through this initiative, our goal is to strengthen local businesses and promote healthier, more equitable communities in Maricopa County. Our team provides technical assistance and promotional activities, including:

Small Food Retailers/Convenience Stores

  • Facilitate customer and community surveys to identify preferences for healthier food items
  • Market and promote healthy food items
  • Assist with produce handling and food safety
  • Organize promotional events to highlight healthy store changes
  • Provide healthy food/beverage demonstrations
  • Connect storeowners with local produce growers and food distributors
  • Connect storeowners to small business development resources and training
  • Assist with SNAP and WIC application process

Grocery Stores

  • Market and promote healthy food items
  • Provide healthy food/beverage demonstrations
  • Conduct store tours

Farmers’ Markets

The farmers’ market initiative includes efforts to increase the availability and consumption of affordable, healthy foods. Promoting the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/EBT) dollars, Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) and WIC Fruit and Vegetable checks (WIC CVVs) in the markets help to increase awareness of how these federal nutrition benefits can be used to purchase fresh, locally grown produce. These efforts help to support local farmers, the local economy and promote healthier, more equitable communities in Maricopa County.

The Food Systems team provides support and technical assistance to market managers, including:

  • Incentive items at targeted markets for SNAP / FMNP customers using their benefits
  • Facilitate customer and community surveys to identify preferences for shopping at farmers markets
  • Market and promote healthy food access / benefit programs
  • Assist with produce handling and food safety resources
  • Organize promotional events to highlight health self-management at targeted markets (biometric and blood-pressure screening etc.)
  • Provide on-site health educators at targeted markets
  • Support market managers and farm vendors to apply for SNAP and FMNP / WIC CVV acceptance
  • Connect market managers to small business development resources and training
  • Connect market managers to opportunities /organizations that enroll customers in SNAP onsite
  • Support market managers with informational resources to expand their outreach efforts with DES and WIC offices, Senior Centers and other community partners

Resources


School, Community and Home Gardens

Gardens can transform communities and provide access to healthful food, opportunities for learning and social interaction, and benefits from physical activity. Gardening traditions have a rich history in the Desert Southwest, with its unique climate and landscaping. While established gardens continue to grow and thrive, community members are finding creative ways to grow food in schools, public spaces, child care settings, front and back yards and vacant lots.

Maricopa County Department of Public Health recognizes gardening as an important component of a healthy, sustainable food system. The County works through grant funding and partnerships to provide information, education and support for gardens and gardeners in a variety of settings.

Through special funding, we provide garden support for communities and schools where people with low income live, learn and receive services. Support may include nutrition and gardening education, garden planning and assistance, and materials as available. Please contact us for more information about these services and funding opportunities.


Farm to School / Farm to Pre-School

The purpose of farm to school and farm to pre-school is to teach children about where their food comes from in order to help them make healthy food choices and combat nutrition-related diseases from an early age. Through this initiative, our aim is to increase opportunities for local food to be served in school cafeterias and expand school garden programs while strengthening relationships with and the economic viability of local farmers and ranchers to promote healthier, more equitable communities in Maricopa County.

Resources

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Contact Us

Office of Community Health Innovation

Food Systems


Telephone:

602.506.9337

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