No one should have to choose between their health and their next meal. Many people with disabilities are unable to participate in the workforce. As of 2016, the unemployment rate for men with disabilities is 10.1 percent, and for women, the rate is 11 percent. These rates are more than twice as high as the unemployment rate for people without disabilities. People living with disabilities also often experience a higher cost of living, as they juggle the prices for medication, equipment, and more with paying bills and buying food. Due to higher unemployment rates, paired with higher costs of living, people living with disabilities often experience higher rates of food insecurity.
Food incentive and nutrition assistance programs can give people with disabilities greater buying power and bridge the gap between finances and food. The Double Up Food Bucks program, for example, doubles the amount of money SNAP/EBT customers can spend on fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets across Arizona. That means they can get twice as much nutritious food when they are able to make trips to a market near them. Customers can also sign up for one of the CSA programs across the state who participate in Double Up Food Bucks. Programs like this can help increase access to fresh, healthy food for people living with disabilities, especially if they are widely implemented across the country.
But even with food incentive programs, people with disabilities can have difficulty going shopping to get the food they need. Those with disabilities who cannot drive often rely on public transportation. While there are accommodations for people living with disabilities on public transportation, problems and barriers can still arise. If people with disabilities live in rural communities, there may be no access public transportation at all. This makes getting enough nutritious food exceptionally challenging. Navigating roadways on foot or in a wheelchair can pose issues as well. Phoenix is one of the most unsafe places in America for pedestrians. Crossing streets and walking on sidewalks can be a safety risk. Food access will continue to be limited without properly and safely designed communities.
Meals on Wheels helps ensure people across Arizona have access nutritious, reliable meals despite barriers like transportation or lack of resources. This program operates in communities across the state (and the country) to deliver meals to seniors and people living with disabilities.
With good food policy and improved street design, access to nutritious food can be a reality for all. Pinnacle Prevention works every day to understand the needs of individuals and communities, and find meaningful solutions. Keep up with our blog, Facebook, and Twitter to learn more about what we and others across the state are doing to ensure a happier, healthier Arizona!