Let’s face some facts. We live in a state in which many cities are ridden with fast food and cheap corner store goods, but lack accessible nutritious food. I understand what you’re probably saying to yourself: “This kid is about to go all Food, Inc. on me.” Though I admire your guess, it’s not completely correct.

Living in Ann Arbor is nearly a delusional experience. This year, I’m in a residence hall equipped with a café designated to serve vegetarian and vegan meals. On my two-block walk to class each morning, I pass at least three or four restaurants that serve local produce and consider their menu sustainable. What I mean is that Ann Arbor could probably serve as Al Gore’s mythical oasis. But it’s easy to forget that although Ann Arbor may be a hotbed for yuppie culture, we too have our own plight in respect to nutritional food accessibility.

In Ann Arbor, although nutritious food may be aplenty, accessibility for disenfranchised citizens borders the impossible. According to a Hunger in America 2010 study, there have been approximately 44,000 new recipients of food assistance since 2006, as reported by annarbor.com in February. The average benefit for U.S. recipients of aid in 2009 was $133.12 per month. I’m not quite sure when you last stepped into the Ann Arbor Whole Foods, but a dinner for a family of five could quite possibly cost $133.12.

The consequences on the community are grim. To combat the problem of high prices, the recipients of aid often buy processed and fatty foods from cheap neighborhood stores. Health problems caused by poor diet have reached an all time high nationwide. They are especially acute in low-income citizens from Michigan — citizens to whom healthy foods are virtually unavailable.

The Fair Food Network of Michigan recognized this fundamental need in numerous communities across the state. According to a story published on annarbor.com on Sept. 7, the FFN recognized a dire need in the Ann Arbor area, and established a “Double Up Food Bucks” program in both the Ypsilanti Farmers Market and Ann Arbor’s Westside Market in Kerrytown. The “Double Up Food Bucks” incentive enhances the Ann Arbor Farmers Market’s current program, which accepts food stamps and other food assistance programs in exchange for Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables.

Though the Ann Arbor Farmers Market made headway by accepting food assistance money last year, the fault was not with their program, but with food culture as a whole. Buying a $5 head of lettuce at the market was previously fiscally irresponsible to the average recipient of aid, especially when those five dollars could be spent for a larger quantity of food elsewhere. “Double Up Food Bucks” puts an end to this nutritional calamity. The new program now doubles bridge card spending at the market up to $20. Do the math. Someone who would regularly spend $20 at the market now gets $40 worth of fresh groceries.

Programs like “Double Up Food Bucks” clearly aren’t feasible in every community, but local and federal governments should attempt to connect with organizations that encourage nutritionally conscious and local food aid for the poor and maligned. If based on nothing more than basic economic virtue, it’s in the state government’s best interests to keep its aid money rooted in Michigan. Local food makes sense. Farmers in Michigan benefit economically, the carbon footprint of locally produced food is much less than its processed counterpart and the nutritional benefits trump those of nationally produced and packaged products.

We have a duty to our posterity and ourselves to support agencies — like the Fair Food Network — that evoke socially responsible ideas. The opportunity to invest in our future is now. As a society, we have the chance to flourish by encouraging healthy alternatives — or die by our own fork and knife.

Eaghan Davis is an LSA freshman.

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