Making Better Food Available in Neighborhoods that Need Them
Fair warning, this will be a recurring theme with me.
In New York City, where I live, there is a huge disparity from neighborhood to neighborhood in the availability of fresh produce. For many, myself included, fruits and greens are practically at every street corner—lots of it even organically grown. But in too many other places in my city, fresh fruits and vegetables just aren't available. So instead, kids are being fed a diet of fast food, preservative- and calorie-laden snack food and highly processed junk. According to city health commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden, in these neighborhoods, "rates of obesity and diabetes are 50 percent higher than the citywide average."
Fortunately, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city council are doing something about it. The city has proposed a program that will create 1,500 new permits for fruit and vegetable carts in targeted neighborhoods where consumption of these nutritious foods is low and where food carts can be a critical link to good nutrition.
This is the same mayor who was one of the first to ban trans-fats in our city's restaurants. And today as I walked to pick up my son Julian at school, I read no less than a dozen banners hung from street lamps promoting healthy eating, less sugar intake and more exercise. I love that!
Helping People Afford the Food They Need
Just making healthy food readily available isn't quite enough. Unfortunately, studies show that it's still much cheaper to consume unhealthy food. But new research shows that public assistance geared toward purchasing fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets or supermarkets creates immediate, positive and lasting results in what people eat.
And the federal government has taken notice, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture announcing last month new rules governing the Women, Infants and Children program, that will provide assistance for "fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which are essential to a healthier diet." This is welcome news for communities across the country looking to stem the tide of health problems related to poor nutrition. It is hard to believe that up until now, women were not encouraged to buy the healthiest foods for their families.
When Deceptively DeliciousSM came out, my motto for the book was, "One Family at a Time." I believe the same approach can work for taking action in the larger world. Work on one thing at a time—write a letter to your school, your local grocery store or a local politician. Then, when you discover how good it feels to take action, move on to larger goals. Involve your friends and your larger community. Together, I know we can make a difference.