Healthy Food Access

All people should have access to healthy, culturally appropriate, affordable food in schools, workplaces, and communities.

NCAH’s healthy food access policies aim to increase funding for nutrition programs and reduce barriers to accessing these programs.


2024 Goals

  • Promote policies that increase access to healthy food in schools and childcare centers, such as school meals for all and farm-to-school policies
  • Promote technical corrections to the 2023 state budget
  • Support partners to implement equitable health policies at the local level
  • Grow our coalition and connect with new partners across the state

NCAH may also support other mission-related policies as they arise.

Want more information? Healthy food access resources can be found here.

Right now, children in North Carolina are held back by hunger. We can improve student outcomes and strengthen our communities by making breakfast and lunch available in North Carolina public schools at no cost to families.

Learn more.

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Healthy Food in Schools and Early Care and Education

Students and children spend the majority of their days at school and in childcare, and many students rely on school nutrition programs for their meals. Thus, it is essential that healthy food is available to all students and children during the day, and that marketing of unhealthy foods is limited in schools.

The Goal

NCAH advocates for policies that expand farm to school and farm to early care and education programs, funding for school nutrition programs, and other policies that increase access to healthy food in schools and child care settings.

Our Progress

NCAH has helped to secure more than $100 million in funding to support school nutrition programs.

NCAH has also worked with the Division of Child Development and Early Education to improve statewide standards addressing nutrition.

Food and Nutrition Services

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provide supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education to under resourced North Carolinians. These programs, and other food and nutrition services, are vital to increasing access to healthy food.

The Goal

NCAH advocates for policies and appropriations that increase access to food and nutrition services, streamline these services, and improve the purchasing power of recipients.

Our Progress

NCAH works to reduce the number of prohibitions on waivers for which the State is permitted to apply.

NCAH also works to increase access to SNAP, WIC, and CACFP, including increasing benefits, increase access to online SNAP, and reducing reporting requirements.

Healthy Food Retail

Too many North Carolinians cannot easily access a venue to purchase healthy food. This is true in urban and rural areas. Thus, increasing access to healthy food retail is critical to ensuring all North Carolinians have access to healthy food.

The Goal

NCAH advocates for policies and appropriations that increase access to healthy food retail, including healthy corner store and healthy food financing initiatives.

Our Progress

NCAH continues to work toward the creation of a statewide healthy food financing fund, and has had other healthy food retail program successes.

In 2016, NCAH secured funds to create the first statewide Healthy Food Small Retailer Program. NCAH has secured a total of $750,000 to support the program.

North Carolina Healthy Food Retail Task Force

Comprised of more than 40 leaders from the health, financial, philanthropic, government, civic and grocery sectors, the Healthy Food Retail Task Force was chaired by representatives from the Duke World Food Policy Center and Merchants Distributors (MDI). The task force met in 2018 and 2019 to explore barriers to grocery store and other healthy food venues in neighborhoods that lack access to nutritious foods. Together, the task force identified eight policy recommendations to overcome those barriers at the state and local levels. The recommendations are built on extensive work by diverse groups across the state.

NCAH appreciates the funding support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, as well as convening partners The Food Trust and Self-Help for their commitment to this important work.

Next Steps

With the continued support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, NCAH is currently convening the NC Healthy Food Access Task Force to continue to develop immediate and long-term policy recommendations and strategies to improve food security and address systemic issues that have left our state vulnerable to high levels of food insecurity.

If you are interested in participating in this work, please sign up for a work group.

NCAH Food Access Maps

The food environment, including grocery store and restaurant proximity, food prices, and food and nutrition assistance programs, all influence food choices and diet quality. The USDA Food Access Research Atlas can be used to learn about food access and median family income at the local, county, and state level.

2017 North Carolina Food Access Maps

These maps show food access in North Carolina as a state, and in 5 NC cities (Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Lexington, Raleigh, Winston-Salem). Please note that the data used does not represent food deserts, but areas in which residents are low income and where there are low supermarket sales and high rates of diet-related deaths.

State Maps

  • Map 1 – Weekly Sales Volume for Supermarkets
  • Map 2 – Supermarket Sales and Total Population
  • Map 3 – Supermarket Sales and Income
  • Map 4 – Low Supermarket Sales and Low Income
  • Map 5 – Income and Diet-Related Deaths
  • Map 6 – Areas with Greatest Need
  • Maps 1-6

City Maps


  • There are large swaths of the state where residents are suffering with diet-related disease and can’t easily access a venue to purchase healthy foods. In addition to the cites, we see large areas in need in many rural areas. (Map 6)
  • Neighborhoods with greater than average supermarket sales relative to total population could indicate more people are buying groceries in these communities than the number of people who live there. This could mean people are traveling from outside the area to shop there. (Map 2)
  • There are few or no supermarkets in areas that are low income and also have low sales. Since income is lower in these areas, people living there are less able to afford to travel to the areas where supermarkets are concentrated. (Map 4)


  • Total state population (2014): 9,750,405
  • Population in low sales and low income areas (Map 4): 4,391,814
    Population in low sales, low income, and high death areas (Map 6): 2,256,179
  • 23% of North Carolina’s total population live in areas where residents experience both a lack of access to supermarkets and healthy food and have high death rates from diet-related disease.
  • More than 2 million (2,2556,179) people in our state, including 435,227 children under the age of 15, live in areas where residents are suffering with diet-related disease and can’t easily access a venue to purchase healthy food.

Data Resources

  • Supermarket locations and sales – Nielsen TDLinx Services, 2016
  • Household income – US Census, ACS 2010-2014
  • Diet-related deaths – North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, mortality data, selected ICD-10 codes, 2014. The causes of death included are based on ICD code review by a team of health professionals. Codes related to diet included diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.