Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Healthcare via Sustainable, Healthy, Local Foods!

Healthcare via Sustainable, Healthy, Local Foods!

At a recent congressional hearing on healthcare held in Lincoln, a predominant theme was the necessity of lifestyle changes. One of the panelists that testified for Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and Congressman Joe Baca was Pam Edwards registered dietitian and director of UNL dining services. A major point she made was that healthy local food systems could and would reverse the trend in childhood obesity, decrease the soaring number of diabetic children in the United States, as well as create healthier individuals overall. Pam Edwards coordinates the surging “Good, Fresh, Local” program at UNL, and I have seen first hand the growth in the program. The last one we attended in April had twice as many students (and other attendees, as they are open to the public) as the previous in March! It is incredibly popular, and not just because the food is that much healthier for you; “It just taste better” as said one attendee in April.

A recent study showed in the 1970’s the average American household spent 17-20% of their income on food and 9-11% on healthcare. In 2005 these numbers had reversed, and the obesity epidemic had taken hold of our country. We may pay a little more for healthy, local foods, but they reduction in health care costs and improved quality of life, in the long run far outweighs it. In Nebraska alone, 27% of the population is overweight. Another disturbing trend is in the cost of healthcare for children. In 2000, it cost $185,000 to treat adults as a result of poor nutrition from K-12 grade school. These numbers have doubled since than.

Those of us fortunate to have the choice to buy local, healthy foods should do so. But at a recent panel discussion of the movie “Food, INC” an important question was posed about food deserts, where grocery stores and fresh produce are scarce. The example was of an area in East Omaha, but the same is happening throughout towns across rural Nebraska. My suggestions are to support your local groceries and ask more of them. Ask for local products. Start a farmer's market. As they stated in the movie, you can vote “3 times a day with your food dollars.” As demand increases, so to will the products sourced from sustainable food channels.

A major reason for this health care crisis, I believe, is the lack of access (and sometimes willingness) to buy healthy, sustainable, and local foods. I believe proper healthcare comes from making a choice. A choice to eat healthy, sustainable, local foods will result in a healthier lifestyle, not just for you and your family, but also your community. It is absolutely vital in today’s world to frequent your markets, support your local businesses, ask for local products, to grow some of your own food when you can, and to know where and how your food was raised. Talk with your neighbors, your farmers, and work as a community to make healthy lifestyle decisions for everyone!

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