E-VAL to Dialog: Access to Food Sources and Consumer Apathy

by Kim Garrison

May’s Invitation to a Community Dialog asked readers to complete a short survey on the topic of Food Access on Martha’s Vineyard.  Thank you to those who completed the survey. 

What follows is a narrative summary of the survey results and an infographic that shows how participants feel about food sources on Martha’s Vineyard. The feedback represents how participants consider qualifiers like cost, access, culture, and options for determining whether or not a food sources is equitable and inclusive. I conclude with a call to action that emerged from the informal social media comments linked to my May article. This last point asks you to consider the role of apathy, complacency, and resignation in the food consumerism on the Vineyard

BUT, FIRST! The results, please…

Food Graphic1.png

Accessible? Maybe.

The core message conveyed by the participants is that the food sources they use are relatively accessible but not coordinated or convenient. People may have to travel all over the island to get what they need. Overall, the participants felt that they did not experience substantial physical barriers getting to food sources and procuring food there, with the exception of one participant who acknowledged the limitations of one store’s design and location: 

“Store is too small “- Survey Participant

Furthermore, feedback about the limited options and high costs of quality food at various sources seems to imply food sources on MV do not meet the community’s food needs.

“Shocker!” You may think. 

“Isn’t this the reality of living on Martha’s Vineyard?”

It most certainly shouldn’t be. I don’t want it to be my daughter’s reality, and, honestly, not having access to food that meets your needs seems in my mind an infringement on human rights. Not to mention there are cultural barriers, dietary barriers, and negative implications for overall community health without access to quality and appropriate foods. The scope of food equity and inclusivity issues seems to span well beyond an issue of socio-economic status, one that means those with limited financial resources are most impacted. Instead, the issue with not having equitable and inclusive food sources on Martha’s Vineyard implies a community consumer health issue exists.

Consumer Apathy.jpg

Apathy, Complacency, or Resignation?

“She’ll get used to it.” This comment was posted on a Facebook feed that promoted my May #EMVY article. My heart sank. It wasn’t that I took this as a personal attack. Rather, my heart lay heavy in response to the dim outlook such a comment lends to the future of consumerism on the Vineyard. This reader’s comment leads me to my concluding thoughts on consumer apathy and the Island community’s vulnerability to it. 

Consumer apathy, most broadly, is defined as an overall sense of indifference, complacency, or resignation for the conditions of consumer goods that are available to a group or community of people.  The phrase is used as an adjective for consumer culture often when looking at potential barriers to change in the nature of consumption in the developed world. I challenge those who live on Martha’s Vineyard to not allow the isolation of living on an island and having limited resources prevent them from challenging the status quo.  Without me diving too deep into a political tirade—definitely not my aim—I want to call the Island community to action. Not in a big way, but to consider an overall awareness and presence in how your food access behaviors work to accept or challenge the availability or lack-there-of for consumer goods that support your quality of life. Challenge the effects of apathy, complacency, or resignation that make the members of a community feel that they have no choice or no ability to make change.

There is Hope! Rad Food Resources on MV: A Community at Work

Food assistance programs meet a very important need in our community related to food insecurity. 

Thank goodness for the work of community groups like—but certainly not limited to—Island Grown Initiative, whose programs include Farm Hub, Community Food Education, Food Equity and Recovery, as well as their Mobile Market. 

Other community food supports include, but are not limited to: 

Last, many local grocery stores are working with food assistance and access groups like the Island Food Pantry, as well as tackling the issue of affordability through their own programs. Cronig’s Market has an Island resident savings program and Stop & Shop membership points can be used to counter gas prices at participating gas stations. Community initiatives such as these work to continually assess and respond to concerns for community access of nutritious foods. 

However, it is also important for community members who are not relying on food assistance programs to consider their consumer experiences and needs, to advocate for change through productive dialog and providing feedback to food establishments. Hence, my call to you all to consider the role of consumer apathy in the behavioral health of our community.

Let’s talk it out!

Comment your thoughts below on this thread!