Minnesotans favor funding to increase statewide access to healthy food

(MGN Online)

A majority (72 percent) of Minnesotans would be likely to choose healthier food if more options were available in their communities, according to a poll conducted by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Nearly 63 percent of respondents also think the state of Minnesota should appropriate funding to increase that access.

According to the poll, most Minnesotans support food access policies that will improve health outcomes and boost local economies. Access to healthy food also was considered to influence where many people choose to live, with 43 percent of respondents citing its importance. Healthy food access was important to more people than access to schools or public transportation.

“Minnesotans clearly understand that not everyone in the state has access to healthy and affordable foods, and they are keenly aware of the benefits it brings to individuals, families and communities,” said Janelle Waldock, vice president of community health and health equity at Blue Cross. “They largely agree that the state of Minnesota should take steps to help support that access.”

Only 36 percent of Minnesotans responding to the poll believe that all state residents have access to healthy and affordable foods. Lack of transportation, poverty, irregular work hours and other barriers make it difficult for thousands to find healthy foods, putting them at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and other negative health issues.

“Today, over 340,000 Minnesotans face distance and income barriers to obtaining healthy, affordable food, and approximately 235,000 Minnesotans live more than 10 miles from a large grocery store or supermarket,” said Waldock. “The issue of low-access areas is not restricted by geography and exists in both rural and urban areas of the state,” Waldock continued.

Women, millennials and parents express the strongest support for the state of Minnesota taking action to increase food access. Among Minnesota millennial respondents, 72 percent believe the state should take steps to increase access to healthy foods, compared to 63 percent of Generation Xers and 53 percent of baby boomers. More than half (54 percent) of all Minnesotans surveyed would support a state budget commitment of $100 million to support healthy food access for all Minnesotans.

In 2016, Blue Cross supported legislation leading to the creation of the Minnesota Good Food Access program. The program is designed to help more Minnesotans access healthy, affordable foods by providing loans, grants and technical assistance to food providers in underserved locations.

Bipartisan legislation to fund the program was introduced this year and is currently making its way through the Minnesota Legislature. “Convenient access to healthy, affordable food is a serious challenge for many Minnesotans, but it’s a challenge that we are willing to take on and, ultimately, overcome,” Waldock said.

The public-opinion online poll was commissioned by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and conducted by ORC International’s CARAVAN Geographic Omnibus in December 2016. It consisted of 1,003 adults living in Minnesota. Respondents were 18 years of age and older. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.09 percentage points for the full sample.

 

This information was provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.