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Communities near Cincinnati set to combat rural Ohio food deserts
Ohio Correspondent

AVONDALE, Ohio — Last month the American Heart Assoc. (AHA) announced a $75,000 grant to Avondale, a community north of Cincinnati, to support an overall awareness campaign that includes billboards, print ads and television spots.

The goal is to raise awareness of what are known as “food deserts,” or areas of the city without groceries, and the health problems caused by the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Members of the Cincinnati City Council, the AHA and the Center for Closing the Health Gap in Greater Cincinnati attended the announcement at the Avondale Pride Center. This campaign is part of a larger effort to return grocery stores to neighborhoods such as Avondale, Bond Hill and Camp Washington.

“It is at a point of crisis,” said Dwight Tillery, president and chief executive for the Center for Closing the Health Gap.

The crisis comes with high rates of diet-related deaths, such as heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer and obesity. Roughly 1,400 such deaths were recorded in 2010 in Hamilton County, a disproportionately high percentage occurring in communities without grocery stores. Adults living in neighborhoods with grocery stores have the lowest rates of obesity.

Short of attracting investment of new commercial grocery stores, the Center for Closing the Health Gap and other nonprofits and investors have developed programs designed to make fresh fruit and vegetables more accessible to low-income communities.