Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where Do You Buy Lettuce?

Shortly after I moved to Crescent City, I was at BC's Lake Earl Market waiting for sandwiches when a young boy came into the store. He was probably 9 or 10 years old and lived close enough that he had walked. When the young woman behind the counter noticed him, he put three quarters on the counter and asked if he could buy 75 cents worth of lettuce. The young woman looked puzzled, but the man making my sandwiches nodded and told her to put some washed lettuce leaves from the sandwich prep area in a ziplock.

This was clearly not the first time a transaction like this had happened. Other than the young employee (and me), nobody seemed surprised by it. The store was fairly generous in the definition of "75 cents worth" and both sides seemed satisfied.
Now maybe this boy's parents were making a dinner full of fresh veggies and realized that they had forgotten lettuce when they were at the grocery store. Maybe the lettuce was just a small part of a healthy meal fulfilling the USDA suggestion to fill half your dinner plate with vegetables.

Or maybe the transaction I witnessed is symptomatic of our community, where many people lack adequate transportation to stores that offer a full range of fresh produce. In urban areas, neighborhoods lacking in full-service grocery stores are often described as food deserts. We have them, too. Residents of Gasquet, Hiouchi, Klamath, Weitchpec, parts of Smith River, Fort Dick, and other small outlying communities have to travel considerable distance to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. For low-income residents, that can be a significant financial burden.

The good news is that there are a lot of resources for making our "corner stores" healthier. Nationwide, communities are focusing on having produce replace chips, sodas, and especially alcohol in the often small stores in underserved neighborhoods. You can learn much more at the website for the Healthy Corner Stores Network.

So where do you buy your lettuce? At a corner store? A supermarket? The farmers' market? Your kitchen garden?

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