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Albany is the main hub for much of the surrounding rural region of southwest Georgia, which is primarily farmland and forestland. Albany is situated along the Flint River and is home to a U.S. Marine Corps Logistics Base and three major manufacturing plants for Procter & Gamble, Mars, and Miller-Coors. Southwest Georgia is one of the most productive agricultural regions of the state with an annual farm gate value of $2 billion, but many citizens of Albany are still disconnected from local, healthy foods.
1. Health Issues
Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, largely driven by preventable health behaviors such as poor nutrition and result in the premature death, disability and a lessened quality of life. Chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and obesity while being an overarching issue facing the United States, it is particularly prominent in South Georgia.
African Americans suffer disproportionately from some of the most devastating health problems from cancer deaths and diabetes to maternal mortality to preterm births. Addressing health disparities is a complex issue that cannot be operated in silos. The risk is not only affected by health behaviors and access to health care but also by social determinants such as income, education, economic opportunity, and location of residence.
The population of Dougherty County is 94,565. Dougherty has a County Health Ranking of 153 of 159. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are ubiquitous in Dougherty County, Georgia.
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2. Poverty Levels
30.5 percent of the population lives under federal poverty line (with census tracts reaching as high as 67.6 percent) compared to the national average of 13.3 percent. This is the second poorest Congressional District in the State. Of the county’s 27 total census tracts, 15 are in a defined food desert and 17.9 percent of households living in a defined food desert do not have transportation making health food choices and seeking routine medical care a comfort that cannot always be afforded. 100 percent of the students in Dougherty County School System qualify for free breakfast and lunch.
Currently, 47.4% of the children in Dougherty County are living in poverty and nearly 18% live in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment (Kidscount, Annie Casey Foundation). Such population metrics classify Albany as one of the 25 poorest cities in the Unites States.
3. Local Farmers
Dougherty County is home to 121 farms representing about 42% of the county’s land and a diversity of crop production. Of these farms, 88% are considered small by USDA classification (USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service 2012 Census of Agriculture). Despite their proximity to Albany, these small growers face many challenges, including viably selling their products to local markets and receiving one-on-one conservation technical assistance.