Did you guys know that I live in a rural food desert?
The USDA defines a food desert as:
urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
It IS possible for us to eat healthy food, though, and because I'm a believer in blossoming where you are, I do my best to keep my house stocked with food that nourishes us rather than food loaded with artificial ingredients that might keep well but doesn't do our bodies or minds any favors.
Here's my situation: there is no grocery store in the town I live in. There isn't even a convenience store or fast food restaurant serving unhealthy options! The nearest grocery store is just over 20 miles away. Most of the food in the store is highly processed. There are some fresh foods, though there isn't a great selection. There is no organic produce, and the conventional options that are there are priced at the same as organic in the nearest cities. We don't shop there often.
We live in rural North Dakota, right between Grand Forks and Fargo, both of which are about an hour away from our home. We usually go to Fargo, because we have more ties there and usually have other errands to run and people to visit. In Fargo, we shop at:
- Costco, which has a lot of affordable healthy options, including organic food.
- Cash Wise, a local chain with a natural foods section that is the bomb.
- Tochi Products, near the downtown area. We aren't downtown a lot anymore, but when we are I like to pop in and check out the sales at Tochi. I also buy herbs and spices in bulk here. It's the first health food store in town!
Cash Wise also delivers to our area every Thursday, which we take advantage of when we have no reason to go to Fargo for a few weeks. The delivery out here is $22, which about what gas would cost to go to Fargo and back, so it's very much worth it.
Growing our own foods is a bit of a buffer in the warmer months, but as you can imagine, not practical when ND is frozen for so much of the year. We are still eating squash and apples from this fall, though!
Without the option to run to the grocery store a few times a week for fresh food, I also have to really plan out what I buy, when we'll eat it, and how I store food. It takes a lot of planning! The main habits I rely on are:
- Eating the fresh food with the shortest life first. Avocados, greens, grapes, bananas, etc.
- Freezing food that won't get eaten right away to preserve nutrient content. Yes, I use my freezer a LOT!
- Keeping herbs and spices well stocked so we can enjoy flavorful food that doesn't have MSG, food dyes, and other additives.
- Buying canned salmon. The vast majority of canned salmon is wild caught and is just a really amazing option for high quality, affordable protein.
- Soaking grains, nuts, and beans. Because we rely a lot on these storage-friendly staples, I like to soak them overnight to be as gentle on our digestive system as possible.
Another way I like to fill in the gaps with healthy foods is by ordering certain foods online. I sometimes order food items on Amazon when I come across good deals. And, of course, I love Starwest Botanicals for herbs, spices, and other supplies.
Do you live in a food desert or face any other challenges providing your family with healthy food?