Right now, many people find it challenging to buy fruits and vegetables due to a limited food budget. As a mother, this situation is very worrying, because I know the importance of feeding our children healthy meals.
The healthiest diet is a balance of protein-rich foods, grains, cereals, fruits and veggies. A diet with a variety of foods helps children properly grow and develop as well as build a strong immune system. For adults, this type of diet fights chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline.
The year 2021 was declared by the United Nations General Assembly the year of Fruits and Vegetables with the aim to promote solutions to make the eating of fruits and vegetable more accessible. The 2030 agenda for the United Nations continues to emphasize the importance of this goal and is aiming to make more actionable goals towards this end. Nonetheless, one of the biggest obstacles towards achieving a balanced diet of fruits and diets is affordability.
There are three ways to make fruits and veggies attainable for all, whatever your food budget.
- Grow your own food.
- Contact local food banks.
- Get to know your local farmers!
Grow Your Own Food
Maximize Your Yard Space
Growing your own food can be done in many different forms and scales. The most traditional way is growing in your own yard. This method requires simple tools and very little to get started. You can begin by buying your own seeds at a local store or online. The best type of seeds are seeds that are labeled as “heritage”. These are seeds that are often labeled with a particular year, for example 1817, the year is how long the lineage of the seed dates back and often is an added assurance of a line of plants that have been selected for generations to be hardy and with high germination rates.
After the seeds germinate, grow the seedlings in indoor containers until they are ready to be transplanted to their appropriate place in the yard.
This method of growing has the lowest carbon emission for the environment because no extra transportation is needed. It is also the most cost effective because you perform all the work yourself and cut any extra cost done by the middle person.
Below is a picture of sunflowers my family germinated and grew to enjoy tasty sunflower seeds in the fall! These sunflower seeds were easy to grow and fit any food budget! An extra step one can take to cut the time and cost of growing your own food is to look for free seedlings from online communities. Also, you can participate in conferences with your local USDA branches and farming community.
Hydroponics is a term meaning growing plants without soil. Many different methods of growing are under the umbrella term of a “hydroponic growing system”. For example, one is a hydroponic tower. The benefits of a tower are that it can be used to grow fruits and vegetables inside with the appropriate lighting. Therefore, it’s a great source for those with little to no outdoor growing space. With a vertical growing system, you can truly maximize your space because it requires about 2-3 square feet to grow a vast array of plants. Additionally, it recycles water and can save thousands of gallons of water per year.
This year my daughter decided to invest in her own hydroponic tower and has been sharing her delicious organic and pesticide-free salads with the entire family.
Cost is one notable “negative” of this type of system. Buying a tower can cost several hundred dollars but many companies offer affordable monthly payment plans. But a second way to avoid racking up the cost of a hydroponic tower is building your own. There are many resources online, such as YouTube, that display how to build your own vegetable tower with food grade PVC pipes. You can cut the cost a lot by making it yourself! However, the only setback is takes a significant time investment. Although this setback tends to balance itself out because plants in hydroponic systems tend to grow at much faster rates than in soil.
Contact Your Local Food Bank
Each individual state across the United States has unique food banks that work with each particular region. For example, a widely known organization in Tennessee is Second Harvest of Tennessee. This organization helps thousands of families across the state have access to fruits and vegetables at no cost. The best way to access this benefit is to reach out to your own local food banks and ask how to reap this benefit if cost is an obstacle to you and to your family.
A food bank available in every state is the St. Vincent de Paul Society. While the organization is affiliated with the Catholic Church, they assist any individual that requests it. (Consider donating to a local food bank if your food budget is plenty!)
Get to Know Your Local Farmers
Reaching out to local farms and asking if you can purchase your produce straight from the source is a good way to save money. Oftentimes, farms offer a variety of fruits and vegetables each season. Some farms even have picking events where you can pick your own fruits and vegetables. Another way to access your local farmers is to go to local farmer’s markets. Each market is unique and each farmer offers their own product. So, the best way to find your favorite produce and products is to visit each market. Meet them and get to know what each one offers.
Other Benefits of Growing Fruits and Vegetables
Besides helping with the food budget, there are other advantages to the different options mentioned above. For example, growing your own food can be a great way to teach kids where food comes from. Secondly, if you involve your kids in growing their own fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to be excited to eat them! Last, it teaches kids skills to grow their own food as they grow up. Below is a picture of my granddaughter excited to be involved in growing different vegetables in her garden.
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Silvia Francescutti has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and is currently enrolled in a dietetic internship.