Healthier foods could be coming your way

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Fresh fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy lifestyle, but there are many people who don't have access to fresh produce.

Now the City of Richmond is trying to fix that.

There's a new task force that's been launched to expand healthier food options for people.

This group is trying to add more produce to convenient stores, add more community gardens and hopefully convince a major grocery chain to open its doors in areas where produce is hard to find.

Joe Wilkerson lives on the South Side in a food desert - a place where the nearest place to buy fresh produce is more than half a mile away

"I do have to go out of my way to find fresh fruits and vegetables," Wilkerson said.

He doesn't drive so the only way he can get his hands on fresh fruits or vegetables is catching a ride with a friend or taking the bus.

"It's a hassle," he said.  "But you do what you have to do too."

People like Joe are the reason the City of Richmond has launched this new task force.

Carolyn Graham is heading up this committee. She says people without cars have the hardest time finding fresh produce.

"If you're reliant on public transportation, after you've shopped in a store, you've purchased meats and that sort of thing, you cannot stand on a hot corner for an hour while you wait for the bus to pick you up," Graham said.

Large grocery chains are often reluctant to move into these areas because they're not sure it'll be profitable.

City leaders think it could be worth their while. Last year in Richmond, more than $112 million was spent on food by people using food stamps.

"These people do have money," she said.  "They eat. They do have money, it's just the options that they have to spend their food money on are very limited."

People will often eat whatever is easy to get a hold of.

"You sort of want fresh fruits and vegetables every day," Wilkerson said.  "If you're not near a grocery store, you do what you have to do and sometimes it might have to be a salad from McDonald's. That's about as fresh as you can get."

The committee is also working on a bus route that could drop off fresh food in these areas as well as opening a community kitchen where people could can their own food.

This new task force fits with First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity. The First Lady has been working to add more stores offering fresh food in under-served areas.