Barbara Randall's columns about stretching food dollars highlight the difficulties of eating a healthy diet on a tight budget - in the case of food stamps, just $3/day. Women like busy mom Carolyn Heymann, and coupon clipper extraordinaire Julie Parrish, are to be commended for their ingenuity at feeding their families on such few dollars.

To support these women and all the other folks out there, who, by choice, or by necessity, subsist on the same amount of daily grocery money that many others spend on their morning latte, we also need to ensure that all citizens have easy access to healthy and affordable food. The best way to do this is to encourage the development of supermarkets that stock fresh, affordable foods in every neighborhood in Portland.

When individuals do not live within walking distance of a grocery store, they must drive or take public transit. Individuals on limited budgets will spend money getting to the store that could have been spent on groceries. When one is living off of $3/day, a gallon of gas amounts to a good portion of one's food allowance. At $2 a pop, this same problem exists with public transit. Compounding this problem, many Portland neighborhoods with limited access to healthy foods have abundant fast-food outlets, convenience marts and liquor stores. When Burger King is more accessible than broccoli, it is no wonder that our country suffers from an epidemic of obesity and malnutrition.

Award-winning initiatives in Pennsylvania and New York have brought supermarkets to underserved areas and increased fruits and vegetables at local grocers. We can do this here in forward-thinking Portland as well. We already have a Food Policy Council, whose governing principles include a commitment to 'ensure ready access to quality grocery stores,' and models of how such a policy can be economically and socially viable. Portland needs to support the savvy ideas of shoppers like Julie and Carolyn by implementing its very own food financing initiative to ensure good food access for all.

The bottom line is, you can't choose healthy foods if you don't have access to them.

Stacey Sobell Williams is a resident of Portland.

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