To the Valley News:
Please consider this letter an applaud for the Denton editorial “We Need A Food Revolution!” The concept of creating supportive environments in which we make the healthiest choices the easiest choices is one supported by health professionals.
Most would agree individuals are responsible for the choices s/he makes. However the perspective that individuals are solely responsible for eating healthfully and getting plenty of activity not only puts a heavy burden on individual, but also does not take into consideration the context in which individuals live.
Research shows that places in which we live, work and play (homes, schools, work, stores, neighborhoods, etc) may either discourage or support health. Research shows that people are healthier when their convenient and grocery stores have abundant stocks of healthy and affordable food. Essex County Public Health (ECPH) currently has a grant called Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play in Essex County. This grant is the primary program funding source for ECPH to conduct chronic disease (obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer) prevention activities. Strategies are identified by the Centers for Disease Control and NYS Department of Health and implemented locally. Grant activities are environmental, policy, and systems based – population-wide – approaches to prevent chronic disease. They include accessibility of nutritious foods and opportunities for physical activity.
Specific to the need for a food revolution, action is occurring locally. In the past 1-½ years, this grant has provided seven Buy Local food racks in partnership with multiple farmers and local store owners; provided 50 Buy Local signs in partnership with Adirondack Harvest, farms, farms stands and stores; provided eight Farmers' Market signs in partnership Adirondack Harvest, and farmers' market coordinators; provided 5,000 Buy Local Food Guides highlighting local farms, farm stands, farmers markets and restaurants serving local produce; supported the creation of two new community gardens in partnership with local hosting organizations; and supported two community kitchen restoration projects. Over the next year Essex County Public Health will continue with ongoing support of four community gardens; establishing a process for gleaning and preserving foods for distribution at local venues in partnership with farmers, community kitchens and others; promote the use of SNAP and WIC dollars for the purchase of fruits and vegetables; increasing availability and visibility of fresh fruits and vegetables with farmers and local venues; creating and distributing a “Buy Local” Food Guide 2012; and implementing the “Fit Pix” incentive program at local venues.
Through the Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play grant Essex County Public Health has been a part of the food revolution. There is still much work to be done.
To learn more about the Creating Healthy Places in Essex County initiatives, visit www.co.essex.ny.us/PublicHealth.
Jessica Darney Buehler,
Essex County Public Health