Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Access to Healthy Foods Summit organized by the Access to Healthy Foods Coalition. It was really refreshing to see all of the different ways that organizations, institutuions, and individuals are working together to improve access to healthy foods in Washington State. In Washington state alone, 15% of our residents do not have consistent access to healthy foods.
It’s pretty obvious that I think about food a lot… but I also think about how much access I have to food. In my neighborhood, I am within walking distance to two different grocery stores and within biking distance to about five. I have a stable income that allows me to purchase fresh foods and I only work one job so I have the time to prepare the majority of my meals myself. Additionally, I have access to information about healthy cooking and have the abilty to prepare healthy foods from scratch, understand what healthy foods are, and read nutritional labels.
Some of these factors could be said to be my personal choice. For instance, I choose to purchase healthy foods. It’s true, I do make that choice. But, there are many factors out of my control that influence my decision. If I had a limited income, relied solely on public transportation, and my corner “grocery store” did not carry fresh produce, and the next closest store was two bus rides away… how much choice would I have in deciding what I eat?
It’s been really exciting to see the ways that more people are becoming aware of “food deserts” (an area where healthy and fresh foods are difficult to find) in our country and working to improve everyone’s access to fresh foods. It’s also great to see that EBT cards (food stamps) are now being accepted at various farmer’s markets in King County. Super cool!
How much access do you have to fresh and healthy foods? What barriers have you seen, for yourself or others, to being able to eat healthfully? What are some of the ways that you or others could (or may already have) make an impact on these challenges?
I’m not really sure how to transition from talking about food access and scarcity to wowing you with this beautiful salad… So, let’s just wow you with this beautiful salad.
My favorite thing about summer foods are all the colors. It’s true that we eat first with our eyes and everything always manages to look more appealing and delicious in summertime. This is a beautiful salad that anyone would be proud to serve up at their next dinner or get-together. The recipe originally called for red onions and feta cheese, but I switched up the feta for kalamata olives and used green onions instead. Fresh herbs like parsley are a must on this one, but fresh mint leaves would be good as well.
Green Bean, Tomato, and Chickpea Salad
Slightly adapted from Everyday Food magazine, June 2011 issue
1.5 pounds green beans, trimmed
3 wide strips lemon zest, cut into thin matchstick, plus 3 Tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 green onions, chopped
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can)
1/4 cup kalamata olives, halved
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
In a large pot of boiling water, cook green beans until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice and oil. Stir in tomatoes, onions, chickpeas, and lemon zest. Add olives and parsley and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange green beans on a serving platter and top with tomato mixture.