Op-Ed: New commuter busway will bring better access to food

Many people have been talking about the great things that CTFastrak, Connecticut’s commuter busway, will bring to local communities when it’s up and running in early 2015.   Better commutes, less reliance on cars, fast and convenient transportation is all great news for our community.  But for many, CTFastrak will open up a much more important and basic opportunity — the opportunity to purchase food.

Op-ed submit bugFor some families in Connecticut’s urban areas, having access to healthy and abundant food choices isn’t an easy or sometimes even feasible option.  A lack of supermarkets within walking distance and a lack of transportation can often equal a lack of healthy food.

While food cost is an issue—more than 14 percent of households in Connecticut reported not having enough money to buy the food that they needed during the first six months of 2012, according to a new report  released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), food availability is also a huge challenge.

More than 40 percent of Hartford families with children live in poverty and the capital city ranks last among Connecticut communities with population at risk for food insecurity.  According to a 2012 study, Hartford was the eighth worst city in terms of providing food access to residents.

It’s estimated that 30,000 of Hartford residents—that’s one in four—don’t have access to fresh food due to distance.  This food insecurity contributes to myriad diet-related health issues, including obesity.

CTFastrak can help change that and can become one important tool in the community health and food system toolbox.

The CTfastrak  bus rapid transit system links points between Hartford and New Britain with a dedicated bus corridor, bypassing traffic on I-84 and local streets in this heavily-congested area.

Some station stops have or will have excellent options for obtaining food nearby.  The Kane Street Station in West Hartford and Fenn Road and Newington Junction stations are adjacent to large supermarkets and many other stations are in walking distance to restaurants and other food providers.  Easier access and frequent CTFastrak service could make the commute for food shopping a much easier proposition for residents throughout the area.

Feeding and caring for one’s family is the most basic of human instincts.  Eliminating hunger and increasing access to healthy food for our residents are complex, multi-faceted issues and the solutions are multi-faceted, as well. For those of us who work to solve food insecurity problems in the Hartford area, CTFastrak may represent one excellent opportunity for helping our community members get quality food on their family table.

Martha Page is the Executive Director of Hartford Food Systems

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