Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Health Department Expands Virtual Supermarket Program

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in announcing the expansion of the Health Department’s innovative Virtual Supermarket Program to two new locations: George Washington Elementary School, and the Cherry Hill branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Virtual Supermarket has been a major success story for the department. In fact, it’s become a model for cities across the country working to improve food access for residents who live in “food deserts” – neighborhoods without a nearby grocery store.

Photo Courtesy: Mark Dennis
Food deserts are an underlying cause of Baltimore’s obesity epidemic. Lack of access to healthy fruits and vegetables increases the risk a person will develop cardiovascular disease, Baltimore’s No. 1 killer.

The link between unhealthy eating and poor health outcomes is especially pronounced in the neighborhoods this program serves: East Baltimore, Washington Village, and Cherry Hill.

I am especially excited to partner with George Washington Elementary.  Schools are not only important because they provide an opportunity to serve children nutritious meals, but because they are critical partners in modeling healthy behaviors.  Ms. Amanda Rice, the school’s forward thinking principal, gets that.  In addition to all of the educational opportunities she makes available for her students, she has also established a pantry in her school to make it easier for families to access fresh fruits and vegetables.

In the communities the Virtual Supermarket serves, residents must choose between shopping at small corner stores that lack fresh produce, or paying a premium for a ride far outside their area.

This is not a fair choice.

The Virtual Supermarket Project enables these residents to order groceries over the Internet at their neighborhood library or school and collect their orders on-site the next day for no delivery fee. Please check out our Webpage for more information on our locations, the ordering and deliver schedules and payment options.

Growing this program would not have been possible without the generous financial support of the Walmart Foundation and United Way of Central Maryland. We are grateful to Keith Morris of Walmart and Mark Furst of United Way for their personal and professional commitment to helping us make Baltimore a healthier place to live, work and play.

Finally, I should note that expanding the supermarket home delivery program was one of 10 recommendations put forth by the Food Policy Task Force. While it’s personally satisfying to pause and take stock of the progress we’re making, much work remains. Stay tuned for future updates on the progress we’re making to reduce food insecurity and to increase access to and consumption of healthy foods citywide.

Take Care B’More!

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Bardot:
    As a Marylander I have great interest in the health and wellness of my fellow residents. The Virtual Supermarket idea is terrific and, as always, we can do more. In my work, I've found many people are intimidated and overwhelmed by how to make good choices for their health. A comprehensive, city-wide and accessible wellness education program would help a great deal. Tools and technology make this possible as never before. Baltimore can be a model for the nation.