What Happens When Walmart Closes in One Coal Community?
Eating your fruits and veggies is good for you, but it’s not always an easy choice. On this episode, we explore some of the challenges, choices, and barriers to eating healthy. Sometimes it’s the cost, or poor choices, sometimes it’s limited access because they live in what’s called a food desert.
About 45 million Americans have trouble affording food. That number rose dramatically during the last recession and the problem has not gone away. Here in West Virginia, food insecurity is even more widespread, according to a study conducted by West Virginia University's Foodlink project.
Health experts say that greasy, salty foods can be bad for your health, especially when you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. West Virginians rank second in the nation for obesity, and third for diabetes. The problem is complicated, and there are a lot of reasons people eat the way they do. Even when people can afford groceries, that doesn’t mean they buy healthy food.
It seems so many times, people are quick to dismiss us Appalachians and assume we just don’t know how to make good decisions when it comes to our health. But it’s more complicated than that. On this show, we’ll hear from folks in one rural Appalachian county to find out their challenges to eating fresh food.
New Challenges for Low Income Community When Grocery Stores Close
In Kimball of McDowell County, West Virginia, earlier this year, the Walmart superstore closed. It was one of many Walmart closures across the United States. In Kimball, 140 people were laid off when the Walmart closed, and many in the community lost their main grocery store.
Roxy Todd recently took a road trip through McDowell County to talk with residents about the superstore's closure.
Helping Feed People in Need
The closing of the Walmart in McDowell County also affected the local food pantry, which last year relied on donations from Walmart to help feed 11,000 people. Linda McKinney runs the Five Loaves and Two Fishes food pantry in Kimble.
McKinney says the superstore’s closing has actually inspired her family to rethink how they get food for the pantry.
Low Income Communities Struggle With Diet Related Diseases
In parts of Appalachia like West Virginia, people struggle with poor health and even low life expectancy. But there are people in these communities, like McDowell, devoted to their towns-working to try new things that might help improve the economy. There's no magic bullet to improving those outcomes, but finding ways to get fresh produce onto the tables of all people in Appalachia, might be one part of a solution.
It's Not Easy Starting a Farmer's Market in Coal Country
There are at least two new farming projects in McDowell County, but growing and selling local foods in the coalfields can be tough. For one thing, there aren’t a lot of customers willing to make the trek out to the farmer’s market.
We'll also hear how what the farmers' market in Whitesburg, KY did to bring more customers to buy vegetables. One program the market partners with is a local health clinic where doctors prescribe vegetables. It’s called a “Farmacy”, and program accepts vouchers from people with chronic diseases who also meet eligibility and health guidelines. WMMT’s Kelli Haywood stopped by the market to see how things are going- one year into the project.
New Jobs for Appalachian Farmers?
The Appalachian Regional Commission and the Obama Administration recently awarded $38.8 million to 29 projects working to improve the region's economy. Two of them are focusing on local agriculture
Our What’s in a Name theme music is by Marteka and William.
Our producer is Roxy Todd. Our editor is Ibby Caputo. Our audio mixer is Zander Aloi.