Access to healthy food improves health, brings economic benefits

Feb. 20, 2014, Huffington Post

Access to healthy food can bring triple bottom-line benefits to communities — better health, new jobs, and a revitalized economy. But nearly 30 million Americans still live in low-income areas with limited access to supermarkets. The problem is particularly acute in low-income communities of color.

The good news is Congress took steps to expand access to healthy food last week, including a $125 million authorization for the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) in the nearly $1 trillion farm bill. To improve access, the program invests in the development and expansion of food retail businesses and food hubs that in return can bring much-needed jobs and spur economic revitalization in low-income neighborhoods.

Bringing healthy food retail into neighborhoods that have historically lacked access is a key strategy within a multifaceted approach to improve the food environment and advance community well-being. PolicyLink, The Food Trust, and The Reinvestment Fund have been working with local, state, and national healthy food advocates for years to expand fresh food access in underserved areas throughout the United States. Continue reading

Parents may want to limit electronic media at mealtime

Jan. 2, 2014, Reuters

Parents who let their teens use electronic devices or watch TV during family meals tend to serve less nutritious food and have poorer family communication, a new study suggests.

Experts have suggested turning the TV off at mealtime for years. But with the advent of cell phones and other handheld devices, kids can bring all kinds of media with them to the table.

“The findings of this most recent paper showed that mealtime media use is common among families with adolescents but that setting rules around media use at meals may reduce media use among teens and have other positive benefits as well,” lead author Jayne A. Fulkerson told Reuters Health in an email. Continue reading

Healthy food rarely convenient for urban minorities

Oct. 16, 2013, Medical Xpress

By Valerie Debenedette

Despite the prevalence of corner and convenience stores in urban neighborhoods, many residents have to travel farther to find supermarkets that offer a wide variety of healthful food choices, finds a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study also found that supermarkets in lower income areas and with more people on public assistance had significantly less variety and offered fewer healthier foods.

A 30-block area of west and southwest Philadelphia was selected for study by the researchers. Residents were 75 percent black, 15 percent white, 6 percent Asian, and 1 percent Hispanic, with 28 percent of households living in poverty, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Continue reading

Income, not ‘food deserts,’ more to blame for U.S. obesity

Sept. 20, 2013, Gallup.com

By Kyley McGeeney and Elizabeth Mendes

In the United States, obesity in “food deserts” is above average. However, it is not solely — or even primarily — access to grocery stores that appears to be the issue — higher obesity rates are more likely to be linked to lower incomes. In other words, a lack of access to food in and of itself doesn’t matter when it comes to obesity. It only matters if Americans are also low-income. Further, income always matters, regardless of whether an individual has access to grocery stores or not.

“Food deserts” are typically defined as either an area that has limited access to grocery stores or as an area that is low income and lacks access to grocery stores. Regardless of which definition is used, what is clear is that the lack of access to grocery stores alone is not related to higher obesity rates — rather, it is more a lack of income. Continue reading

NYC school lunch menus serve up healthy eats

Sept. 5, 2013, Times Ledger

By Kevin Zimmerman

When New York City children shuffle into the cafeteria on Sept. 9 most probably won’t notice any changes at that first back-to-school lunch until they roll their trays up to the cash register.

For kids who pay for the mid-day meal, the price jumps up a quarter. But those children who qualify for reduced-cost meals will see their tabs fall from 25 cents to nothing.

“Two things are happening,” said Eric Goldstein, CEO of School Support Services. “We used to have paid, reduced and free lunches. Now we’ll just have paid and free. And for kids who pay, the cost is going from $1.50 to $1.75.” Continue reading

Minneapolis Public Schools food truck promotes healthy lunch for all kids

July 23, 2013, Twin Cities Daily Planet

By Margo Ashmore

“My son ate broccoli and carrots for the first time, seeing his peers do it. And the ranch dressing helped,” said Andrea Worsfeld, picnicking at Jackson Square Park [in Minneapolis, Minn.] with her 2-year-old son, his 6-week-old sibling, and another mother and her children. They’d come for swimming, but stumbled upon the free meals for kids offered from the Minneapolis Public Schools food truck.

Elijah Dodds and Bobbi Varichak, who staff the food truck, said they served 54 lunches on July 11. “The kids run to the truck when it comes,” Varichak said. “They are very thankful, they always say thank you.” Continue reading

National parks dishing up healthier fare this summer

June 5, 2013, USA Today

By Nanci Hellmich

Visitors to the national parks this summer will not only get a taste of nature, they’ll get a taste of healthier fare at the parks’ restaurants, snack bars, and stores.

On June 5 the National Park Service announced a new nationwide plan — the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program — to make certain all its parks offer healthy food and beverage choices.

Some of the options: lentil soup, bison hot dogs, grass-fed beef, black-bean sliders, fish tacos, fresh tomato soup, and produce from local farms. About 23 million people buy meals in national parks each year. Continue reading

Helping kids make healthier food choices

Feb. 25, 2013, The Boston Globe

By Lara Salahi

Want a way to get kids to choose healthier food? Make it look good and easy to grab, say researchers at Cornell University. Their study, published Feb. 22 in the Journal of Pediatrics, suggests that kids are more likely to choose healthy food if the presentation is appealing and it is within reach.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture required schools to substitute unhealthy foods with nutritious options, but that hasn’t guaranteed that students eat healthier. “We believe that when children take foods of their own volition, they’re more likely to eat them,” said Andrew Hanks, a research fellow at Cornell University and lead author of the study. Continue reading