Category Archives: Food access
While laws to help make it easier for everyone to get their veggies are cropping up all over, some would-be planters get stopped in their carrot tracks by regulations that prohibit use of public spaces for planting, or even limit what can be grown on private property, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal [note: subscription required]. In some jurisdictions, according to the article, sidewalk gardeners have been fined and may lack the clout to advocate for changing the laws.
>>Bonus Link: Read about Urban Farming, a nonprofit group with high-profile corporate sponsors that supports gardens on unused land.
Many news reports this week put the calorie counts for Thanksgiving dinner at anywhere from 2,000 to 4,500 calories (likely an extra slice of pie and an extra pour of gravy in the latter count), which is why health departments across the country are offering advice on healthier eating and increased activity come Thursday:
- Smart Eating Habits from the Washington, D.C., health department include eating breakfast on Thanksgiving Day.
- Online Thanksgiving cookbook from the San Bernardino County, Calif., health department (the pumpkin bread pudding dessert has only 183 calories and 2 grams of fat per serving).
- A video on healthy eating tips from the Lake County, Ill., health department (survey the buffet and be a picky eater before filling your plate). [See Lake County's November Nutrition Tip video below.]
- Safe eating should also be on the menu. The Mayo Clinic offers tips on how long you can safely serve Thanksgiving leftovers.
The Obesity Solutions Initiative at the Hudson Institute, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., has released a new report, “Better for You Foods—It’s Just Good Business,” that found food and beverage companies with a higher percentage of their sales coming from better-for-you foods and beverages perform better financially.
Funding for the report was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. NewPublicHealth spoke with Hank Cardello, MBA, lead author of the report, director of the Obesity Solutions Initiative and previously a marketing executive for several major food and beverage companies, about the report and its implications.
NewPublicHealth: Tell us about the study findings.
Hank Cardello: We looked at 15 companies, mostly consumer package goods companies and the large beverage companies such as General Mills, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola and Kraft. These are the companies that are in the top 30 of the largest food companies in the country and also account for about a third of all the grocery sales to consumers. We looked at sales, we looked at their profits, we looked at their reputations, we looked at their shareholder returns and one of the key findings was this: most of the growth in sales (over 70 percent) was coming from better-for-you products. The other interesting finding was that not only was the percentage increase greater but also the absolute dollar sales were greater. A two-to-one ratio of better-for-you growth versus traditional products such as sugared soft drinks, cookies and ice cream.
NPH: And why is this study so important?
A new online mapping tool from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping identify census tracts within the nation where low-income communities overlap with limited access to a supermarket or large grocery store.
The new tool, called the Food Desert Locator, is an Internet-based mapping tool that directs users to "food deserts" around the country. Food deserts are low-income communities that lack ready access to healthy food.
The tool was developed by the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). The goal of the tool is to help communities expand the availability of healthy food.
"This new Food Desert Locator will help policy makers, community planners, researchers, and other professionals identify communities where public-private intervention can help make fresh, healthy, and affordable food more readily available to residents," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The map is based on census tracts. According to USDA, about 10 percent of the 65,000 census tracts in the U.S. meet the definition of a food desert. Approximately 13.5 million people live in these census tracts, most in urban areas.
The new mapping tool lets users access a map of the U.S. that highlights and identifies census tracts that qualify as food deserts. Users can scan the map and zoom into an area or use the search feature to find a specific location. They can then create smaller maps showing food desert census tracts and also access statistics on population characteristics of a selected tract, such as the number of households without a car. Not having easy access to transportation can be a factor that can keep households from purchasing healthy foods if neighborhood stores don’t stock them.
Weigh in: Do you live in a "food desert"? Is your community doing anything to change that?