Healthy Memphis Common Table Tackles Food Deserts

01 Jun 2012

Successful multi-stakeholder alliances take many shapes and sizes. In AF4Q, these groups include those who receive care, provide care, and pay for care. The Healthy Memphis Common Table (HMCT)—the Aligning Forces for Quality grantee in Memphis, TN—expanded its alliance to include grocery stores as community partners. At first, this may not seem germane to health care quality and equity—a focal point of HMCT’s work—but closer inspection reveals its potential impact on food deserts is extreme.

Food deserts, or areas in otherwise developed nations where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain, are a real issue in some Memphis and Shelby county neighborhoods. Their populations suffer from a host of health issues, including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. While no single determinant exists to explain away this phenomenon, its impact is unmistakable.

“We have several food deserts within our city. …In order to improve the health of citizens in Memphis and Shelby County, we must alleviate the barriers to healthy foods,” said Renée Frazier, CEO of HMCT. That is why HMCT’s annual meeting, attracting attendees from all sectors of private industry and government, met to discuss ways the community could band together to entice grocers to open stores using economic development strategies.

AF4Q alliances, such as Memphis, are realizing that the population health of their communities makes a real impact on the health of individuals. By making the most of relationships with key stakeholders—like local political leaders and government officials—eradicating these deserts is possible.

“If we can eliminate the food deserts with a good stake from some of the supermarkets in the area, we can also provide more affordable product,” said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell. “It also has an economic impact. Not only are we impacting the public health by providing better quality foods, but we’re also doing it at a cheaper cost, and we’re providing jobs.”

Watch Renée Frazier and Jeff Brown discuss the project on Channel 3WREG Memphis below: