Why the Big Box Farm Project?
Outside of small towns, almost 80 percent of land in the county is farmland that appears to be successful. Despite this, over 18 percent of residents are living below the poverty line(“Quick Facts – Gratiot County, MI”). In Gratiot County, there are two types of places to obtain food: fast food restaurants and the supermarket. It is true that food in the United States is inexpensive; Americans typically only spend 10 percent of their disposable income on food which is less than anywhere else in the world (Sheaffer et al). However, the problem is that the wrong kind of food is cheap, making healthy food a commodity that only the wealthy have access to. Most families who are below the poverty line receive aid from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, and the average person in Michigan on food stamps gets approximately $4.25 per day to spend on three meals. Unfortunately, $4.25 is not enough to provide three adequate meals for any person. Generally, fresh produce costs a few dollars per pound which is well out of reach for people on such a tight budget. Because of this, people near the poverty line do what they can to get the most food for what little money that they have. This leads them away from the fresh produce or fresh meat and straight to the processed food isles. Canned goods and other non-perishable items are desirable because they have such a long shelf life and they are so much cheaper than fresh food, but in order to achieve that, food companies add an abundance of preservatives. By adding preservatives to extend the shelf lives of food, the major cost is that almost all of the important nutrients are lost which is why processed food cost so much less than fresh food. Left without any other options, people in poverty are forced to consume calories that are mainly sugars or fats from the overly processed foods of the supermarket and fast food chains. This systematically makes the poorest people malnourished and overweight because the only food they have access to has little to no nutritional value. Here in Gratiot County, where the median annual income is well below the state average, a total of 62.5 percent of the
adult population is considered overweight or obese because they can only afford to eat cheap, processed food (“Community Health Assessment”). For children, the effects are even worse. Over a quarter of this county’s population living in poverty are children, and 18.6 percent of children here are already obese (“Community Health Assessment”). Children who grow up malnourished and are not yet considered obese are at a greater risk of adult obesity and onset diabetes because having little access to food causes their metabolisms to slow down immensely during adolescence unlike kids who have access to an adequate amount of healthy food. A high percentage of citizens in Gratiot County are suffering from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer because they simply cannot afford to eat healthy, nutritious foods which turned into a luxury only for the rich. The Big Box Farm will provide a much more affordable, healthier option for disadvantaged citizens. By cutting out the cost of transporting the food and eliminating the use of preservatives or other chemicals in our food entirely, we will increase the health and help combat the effects of poverty.