As food prices soar, making healthy choices might not be so easy for some Memphians

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shoppers beware: food prices are on the rise!

Everything from meat to fruits and vegetables are going to cost more, and for several reasons: droughts, unusually cold winter weather, and fewer cattle being raised.

The increases could have a critical impact on what shoppers jot down on their grocery lists.

The brightly painted mural of fruits and vegetables is what makes the South Memphis Farmers’ Market stand out at the corner of South Parkway and Mississippi Boulevard.

The farmers’ market is part of St. Andrew AME Church’s commitment to redeveloping South Memphis and features a “green” grocery store and cooking school.

The market is an oasis to people living in what’s been referred to as “food desert.”

“Because of a lack of access to produce and other healthy alternatives outside of convenience stores. And so we’re already a “food desert”, but we’re trying our best to turn that title around,”  said Roshun Austin, executive director of The Works, Inc.

Austin is concerned even more now because the same weather-related issues that are driving food prices higher also affect what produce is available in South Memphis.

“One of our farmers told us he lost a crop of broccoli. He lost a crop of cauliflower because of the freezes we experienced a few weeks ago in the evenings with the 30 and 40 degree weather,” said Austin.

Austin said that’s why shelves inside the “green” grocery aren’t as full as they might normally be at this time of the year.

Austin also said the shortage of healthy produce makes the cooking classes offered at the farmers market even more important.

As food prices rise, consumers need to know how to cook healthy, eat healthy, maximize their food budget, and minimize waist.

The cooking class is part book work and part hands-on in a kitchen that’s geared to healthy eating habits.

“To be less into trans fats, less into saturated fats, less in sugars,” said Roshun Austin.

Dellarontay Readus lives in South Memphis and shops at the South Memphis Farmers Market on a regular basis.

“I try to, when I can, get something healthy because so I don’t always have to take the bad road,” said Readus.

But Readus wants his family to eat healthy, too.

He says if food prices go sky high, that might not be a priority.

“We usually just get what we can get, because healthy food is so expensive these days,” said Readus.

The U.S.Department of Agriculture reports the increase in food prices in just the first four months of 2014 is greater than all of 2013.

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