By Tina Kalenits
Thirty-eight percent of Youngstown citizens, which is 17,500 people, do not have access to grocery stores as of 2020, according to Theodore Brown.
Brown is the executive co-chair of the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods, called ACTION, Food Task Force.
To promote healthier eating and access to resources in Youngstown, ACTION led a “Healthier YOU” event Jan. 26 at the B&O Station.
The event included line dancing, meditation and blood pressure screenings.
In 2016, Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown declared the city of Youngstown a food desert because of the lack of access residents have to full-service grocery stores.
Jamael Tito Brown said the Healthier YOU event was the first step in helping the Valley.
“It’s got to be more than just a city. It’s got to be everyone who’s taken a part of this, and you’re going to need private and public partnerships,” he said. “If we all play our part, we’re collectively having more power to remove this insecurity in our community.”
Jamael Tito Brown said pop-up farmers markets or even home deliveries are excellent opportunities for healthy food options.
“This is just a first start, but many of these groups and organizations, they’ve been doing this on their own,” Jamael Tito Brown said. “And now we’re bringing them collectively together to say, ‘Let’s all come together and have a greater power to remove that insecurity in our community.’”
Theodore Brown said the United States is supposed to be the wealthiest country in the world. Meanwhile, many people in the U.S. do not have access to food.
“We, as a faith-based organization, as well as other community organizations, trying to do what we can to help reverse that tide, as well as educate the people on eating a lot better,” he said.
Theodore Brown said there will be a dietitian on-site of the 10 locations.
“What they’re going to do is the dietitian will actually come in, and we’ll show you exactly how to prepare the food so that you can eat healthier. Maybe introduce you to some different foods that you may not be accustomed to eating,” Theodore Brown said.
Rose Carter, the executive director of ACTION, said while waiting for a grocery store in the city to be developed, the alternative is to provide healthy food options through churches and institutions.
“What we did is we kicked off this so that others would be able to know how to conduct themselves healthy and to be able to find ways to keep us from diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, all of those things,” she said.
Carter said Healthier YOU is the kickoff event for cooking classes and promoting healthier foods and lifestyles across 10 locations in Mahoning County.