New council aims to address food security in Weber County, focusing on Ogden neighborhood
OGDEN — The United Way of Northern Utah is calling on individuals in the community representing sectors of the food system to apply for membership to sit on the newly established Ogden Food Policy Council. The FPC is a volunteer body serving the community to address local food policy issues and addressing local needs to provide access to healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate food for all Ogden residents.
Three hundred FPCs exist in the United States, with three in Utah — the others are in Salt Lake City and a statewide entity. The FPC in Ogden, however, will be the first of its kind in the state, as the other two are affiliated with city and state governments.
A Community Food Security Assessment was recently conducted in Weber County to help evaluate food security needs and find solutions. Ogden residents in the East Central neighborhood are of primary concern due to the abundance of food deserts and food swamps located within the 20-black radius between Washington and Harrison Boulevards, from 30th Street to the Ogden River.
Food Empowerment Project describes food deserts as geographical areas in which residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options, especially fresh produce, is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of nearby grocery stores. Within Weber County, there are 11 identified food deserts. Ten of them are in Ogden City.
Alyson Williams, network facilitator with United Way of Northern Utah, who is spearheading the FPC, says the East Central neighborhood is a prime example of a food desert. There is only one grocery store in the area, Rancho Market, while there are numerous corner stores and gas stations.
“It makes it harder to raise kids with healthy eating habits,” Williams said of the abundant junk food offerings, or food swamps, in the East Central neighborhood.
Williams believes there could be any number of reasons why convenience stores do not have healthy and affordable foods, including problems with distribution, production, associated cost and profitability. “I don’t think it’s about forcing our ideals upon them. It’s about figuring out what the barriers are,” Williams said.
Six primary drivers of food security were identified in Weber County: availability, access, knowledge, affordability, policy and sociocultural factors.
The Food Security Team of Ogden Civic Action Network defines food security as all members of a household having access to enough food, at all times, for an active, healthy life.
According to the Utah Department of Health, life expectancy is statistically worse in downtown Ogden than in the state of Utah, generally.
United Way of Northern Utah sent a request for applicants to targeted audiences, including individuals in agriculture, economic development, education and health. Williams said she believes collaboration among different sectors will lead to larger systems-level work to improve the local food economy.
“We’re not sure what to expect,” United Way of Northern Utah Marketing Manager Amandi Heperi said. But much of the work in addressing these issues will come from FPC members.
The deadline to apply for membership is Nov. 30. Applicants will be selected in December, and FPC meetings will begin Jan. 20, 2022.