Fixing Food: Fresh Solutions

fixing food fresh solutions

fixing food fresh solutions

Coming from www.ucsusa.org/fixingfood, you can’t miss this great information. This is a must read! So, let’s not waste any time, dive in:

The nation’s cities are at the front-lines of a food system that is sickening millions of Americans every year and keeping many of these same people impoverished. This dysfunctional system is the product of federal food and agriculture policies that encourage overproduction and over-consumption of unhealthy, processed foods.

From farm subsidies that make junk food ingredients cheap and plentiful to labor and immigration laws that exploit low-wage farm and foodservice workers, our current food system fails to promote public health and economic opportunity. The cities and other local communities where people live, shop, work, and receive healthcare bear the brunt of this system’s unhealthy outcomes.

In response, many local governments and community leaders are launching innovative efforts to improve the health of their communities—particularly in lower-income communities and communities of color. These communities are more likely to suffer from diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Seligman and Schillinger 2010). At the same time that many in these communities struggle with diet-related diseases, they also go hungry or are uncertain about where their next meals will come from. In an effort to remake a food system that is working against the health of their neighborhoods’ residents, city officials and community leaders are experimenting with a variety of policies and programs aimed at increasing access to healthy food for people of all incomes and backgrounds.

This Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report documents some of the innovative ways that local leaders are combating a broken food system. We highlight five urban communities that demonstrate the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of policy makers and community leaders who are implementing programs that help residents grow and sell healthy food, train the next generation of farmers, and bring healthy food to places where people gather. These case studies may be models that other local communities can learn from and adapt to their own unique challenges and needs. They may also provide impetus for state and national advocates and leaders to scale these programs to reach more of the people who need them.

These case studies should also support the growing number of organizations and individuals who have concluded that our nation’s food system—and the public policies that have created and entrenched it—requires a fundamental overhaul. Although the local policies and programs we document are still in their early stages, they collectively suggest the possibility of a different food system that could be centered on promoting healthy diets, ensuring environmental sustainability, and generating economic opportunity for all Americans. Local communities such as those we profile should not have to fight an unhealthy, unfair, and unsustainable food system or expend their resources and energies undoing the effects of such a system. Instead of stacking the deck against communities, national policy should help create conditions that allow people in every community to take part in a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system. This report offers a national policy recommendation to that end.

Key Characteristics of Our Five Cities

The five cities we profile—Oakland, Memphis, Louisville, Baltimore, and Minneapolis—have populations that range between 400,000 and 700,000 (Table 1). While whites account for nearly two-thirds of the populations in Louisville and Minneapolis, they account for only about one-third of the populations in Oakland, Memphis, and Baltimore. In each of the cities, the percentage of residents living below the poverty line exceeds the national average of 15 percent; in Baltimore and Memphis, these percentages are well above the national average: 24 and 27 percent, respectively.

We presented the prevalence of several diet-related chronic diseases in these cities. Among them, Louisville has the highest childhood obesity rate (21 percent) and percentage of residents with high blood pressure (39 percent), while the percentage of adults who are diabetic (10 percent) and obese (29 percent) is the same as the national average. Diet-related illnesses are also a challenge in Baltimore and Memphis, as the prevalence of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity are greater than national averages. The prevalence of adult diet related chronic diseases is lower in Minneapolis and Oakland than nationally. However, the childhood obesity rate in Oakland (18 percent) exceeds the national average of 16 percent.

Each of the separate 5 cities and their solutions to these diet related issues will be coming up in future blogs.

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