Sunday, January 26, 2014

Nice Email Thread: But can we work together to help people that need access to healthy food?

I am a big believer in the idea that we can do far more good working together than working alone. It is why I joined TheListserve and have been inspired by the voices that come across in most the emails. People want to connect. The Listserve is a prime example of this driving force in who we are.

It is also why for the bulk of my life, I’ve been dedicated to finding ways to connect people, including bringing movements of people together to create change. Today, I am the lucky random name, able to send you a message as part of the listserve experiment and I want to see if we can do something together.

One of the most impactful projects I’ve worked on is PreventObesity.net, an online network of about 3,500 advocacy leaders and more than 300,000 grassroots supporters who are dedicated to taking action to reverse childhood obesity.
And right now, PreventObesity.net is running an advocacy campaign I’m really passionate about. I am curious to see if thelistserve readers want even more ways to work together.

Somewhere between 25 and 30 million Americans cannot access healthy, affordable food within a reasonable distance of their home. You might have heard of these communities referred to as “food deserts,” since it is nearly impossible for residents to find nutritious food there. Some advocates like to call them “food swamps,” as that phrase reflects the high number of fast food establishments and corner markets selling unhealthy processed goods in these communities.

Whatever your preferred term is, the lack of healthy food access in these neighborhoods is one of the things driving our country’s obesity epidemic. More than two-thirds of Americans are now overweight or obese, which is negatively impacting their health and contributing to rising healthcare costs.

Research shows you are WHERE you eat, and the neighborhood you live in can have a profound impact on your food choices. Simply put, how can we expect families to eat healthy food if they can’t even buy that food in their own neighborhood?

Unfortunately, research also shows that a whole lot of people are not aware of this problem. It’s a tough one to grasp, especially for people like myself who are fortunate to be surrounded by grocery stores and other healthy retail options where I live.

That’s why PreventObesity.net recently launched the Healthy Food Access Quiz. It’s designed to spread the word about the importance of healthy, affordable food access in America, showcase some of the negative things that happen when people live in food deserts and outline a handful of solutions to this complicated problem.

For example, do you know how many Americans do not own a vehicle and live more than one mile from a supermarket? Or how low-income neighborhoods, communities of color and rural areas are more likely to be able to access healthy, affordable food? Or how many jobs are created when a large food retailer like a grocery store opens in a food desert?

I encourage you to take the Healthy Food Access Quiz and put your knowledge to the test. (You can find it on the blog on the PreventObesity.net homepage.) Please also share the quiz with your friends, family and colleagues!

Increasing healthy food access to all Americans isn’t the only thing we must do to reverse obesity and build a healthier country. But it is a good starting point. If we can ensure all Americans can find healthy, affordable food near their home, we can focus our attention on the other problems driving the epidemic.


Marty Kearns
marty[AT]preventobesity.net
Washington DC

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