The Virtual Supermarket Project is part of a city push to make healthy food more accessible in communities where major supermarkets are scarce. Baltimore’s health department launched it last month at two of the city’s public library branches. They’re located on opposite ends of town: one neighborhood is mostly African-American and working-class, the other racially and economically mixed.
These areas lack large, competitively priced supermarkets within walking distance — sometimes called “food deserts.” Both communities have plenty of fast-food and corner stores, but many tend to offer less healthy fare.
“In Baltimore, where we’re working at with the libraries, you see that the mortality burden from diet-related causes like diabetes, stroke and heart disease are among the highest in the city,” says Ryan Petteway, a city epidemiologist.