Dietetics student, Breta Alstrom created pedestrian-friendly healthy recipes during her internship with KC Healthy Kids. Here’s her story:
I grew up in the Midwest and a full-service grocery store was never more than a five-minute drive away. I had a car and made a trip to the store once or twice a week with five or six bags of food to replenish pantry stables and fresh produce for the next few days.
Filling the Fridge in a Food Desert
Last year, I lived in Washington, D.C. without a car. I was one of the lucky ones: I lived caddy-corner from a full service grocery store. On my first trip to the store, I took two reusable shopping bags and overfilled them both. I could barely carry them across the street to my house! One bag even ripped apart at the seam. After, I began to go to the store more frequently and buy fewer items on each trip. However, I bought a lot of things I didn’t need because I felt like I had room in my bag and my budget. Those impulse purchases added up quickly.
When I moved to downtown Kansas City my first thought was, “Where are all the grocery stores?” For me, grocery shopping is more than just a necessity. I have so much fun looking at new products and trying new ingredients. There are plenty of supermarkets in the suburbs, but downtown is a food desert. There are a few places to buy food; but they shave limited option and are generally overpriced. Occasionally, I drive to a Hy-Vee, Sprouts or Sunfresh, but that takes time, which I don’t always have. These suburban stores aren’t at all feasible for someone who lives downtown and doesn’t have a car.
Fare Food Shopping
During my internship at KC Healthy Kids I was given the opportunity to make a difference for people in this situation. To save valuable grocery bag space, the recipes I created use similar ingredients but embrace different flavors so you don’t get bored. These recipes will get you through three meals, are very simple, kid friendly and won’t break the bank. The cost of the meals ranges from 93 cents to $1.56 per serving. This is a savings compared to the average cost of a meal in Jackson County which is $2.78 according to Map the Meal Gap. It also gives you room in your budget to change up the ingredients.
Buying and Bussing
To test the recipes, I did my grocery shopping by bus. I was able to fit the ingredients three meal into two bags. But they were a little heavy to carry a long way. Another thing I hadn’t considered was the wait time for the bus. At one point I waited 25 minutes. That would have been a big issue if I were carrying raw meat, eggs or milk on a warm day.
For this project, I visited bus stops and spoke with bus riders about their grocery shopping routines. My eyes were opened to the challenges people face when trying to put food on their tables. As expected, many of them don’t have a car, or share one with others. They must take the bus or walk to a grocery store. Some of the women said they did not always feel safe traveling from home to a grocery store, which is a barrier no one should have to face.
This has been a thought-provoking experience for me, and will shape my dietetics practice. I learned about barriers that my future patients and clients may face while pursuing healthy lifestyle changes. Combined with my own experiences, this project gave me a better understanding of food insecurity. I’m grateful KC Healthy Kids is working to increase access to healthy food.
1 box of couscous
1 can of chicken, 16 ounces**
1 cup of carrots, chopped or shredded
1 cup of peas frozen
1 cup of broccoli frozen
½ cup of Italian or Greek salad dressing
1. Prepare couscous according to the instructions on the box
2. Steam frozen peas and broccoli in the microwave
3. Fluff couscous with a fork
4. Add peas, broccoli, carrots and chicken to the couscous
5. Add dressing
1 can of chicken
½ cup of salsa
2 cups of frozen peppers
2 cups of lettuce, shredded
½ cup of cheese, optional
1. Thaw and cook frozen peppers
2. Remove chicken from the can and add to peppers to warm up
3. Microwave tortillas for 15 seconds
4. Place chicken and peppers, lettuce, cheese and salsa in the tortilla
The Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition and KC Healthy Kids are working with local partners to make it easier for transit riders to buy groceries. You can get help planning your trip and planning meals, saving money and finding recipes at Fare Food Shopping.