b'COSTThe top barrier identified by My Health Story respondents to eating healthy was cost. Healthy food is expensive too expensive for many family budgets. And this barrier is the result of the systems we create in our communities, at all levels, national, state and local. No matter how much a per-son or family might prioritize putting vegetables and fruits on the table every day, the cost of doing so can make it difficult if not impossible. On the systems level, our exploration identified cost of fruits and vegetables as a barrier not only for residents, but also for farmers and schools, and for smaller retail establishments who wish to increase their healthy food offerings.While ensuring that all of our diverse communities can easily access a grocery store with vege-tables and fruit is certainly part of the answer, it is clearly not the only one or even the most es-sential in many cases. The trick, it seems, is to implement solutions that strike the just the right balance between informing and encouraging people to prioritize a healthy diet, and creating system change that makes it as convenient and affordable as possible for people to follow through on these priorities in their everyday lives. With cost as a top barrier, and food insecurity impacting thousands of people across the region, it is important to support government food security programs, such as WIC and SNAP as important components to supporting fruit and vegetable consumption. Other nutrition incentive programs like Double Up Food Bucks have been successful in increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables for people receiving assistance. Limiting these programs makes people even more sensitive to cost as a barrier.OTHER BARRIERSWhile over half of My Health Story survey respondents across the region, income groups, and ra-cial/ethnic groups identified that eating healthy was important, residents must contend with vari-ous barriers to incorporating fruits and vegetables into their daily lives. One of the most important things we came to realize as a result of this exploration is the essential balance between personal priorities and systemic convenience when it comes to different communities access to, and con-sumption of, fruits and vegetables. Having a place to shop for vegetables and fruits, and having transportation to get back and forth to a grocery store, ranked at the bottom of the list of identified barriers to eating healthy. While transportation did not rank as a top barrier overall, it did factor in more frequently for low income and urban residents, and this need is reflected in the community work conducted by Healthi Kids, Foodlink and other community partners. Other identified barriers focused on issues relating to peoples daily lives, and these barriers varied by population groups:As income levels increase, so does the percent of people reporting they do not have the time to shop or prepare healthy food.People in the youngest age group (18-24) were most likely to identify their lack of knowledge about how to prepare healthy meals that taste good.The others in my household dont eat healthy and we eat together was consistently cited by 10-15 percent of the various population groups.The Socio-Ecological model 13helps us understand these barrierspeople do not make choices in a vacuum. Local systems, culture, and messaging received in day-to-day life can help people over-come barriers like time, knowledge and family systems.The second most common response was I dont have any barriers keeping me from eating healthy food, with almost 60 percent of seniors (age 65 and older) reporting that they do not have any barriers to eating healthier. Those reporting no barriers includes a mix of people who do consume recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, as well as those who do not, despite not having any clear barriers. Time, knowledge, habits of others in the household, and improvements among those without any specifically identified barriers could reasonably be addressed through the choices people make in their daily lives, if the culture and systems surrounding them support and promote the healthy choice as the easy choice.34'