America’s obesity epidemic is no secret, and the crisis is particularly dire in New York State.
Now, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association are calling on the Senate and Assembly to fund initiatives that would improve access to healthy foods in urban areas.
According to a press release from the American Heart Association, the Senate recently supported funding for the Healthy Food and Healthy Communities Fund in its budget resolution.
The program, which will receive $15 million in funding, was designed by both health organizations to enhance the presence of farmers markets and other healthy food retailers in underserved communities.
However, the Senate declined to fund the Healthy Corner Store Program, a much cheaper initiative, at $3 million, that would help existing corner stores to stock and sell healthier food items. Many believe that this program should be a priority considering the large percentage of low-income families that do most or all of their food shopping at local corner stores.
“We want to thank the Senate for supporting the effort to improve access to healthy food around New York State, but more needs to be done,” said Bob Elling, chairman of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association New York State Advocacy Committee.
“Nearly 3 million New Yorkers, about 16 percent of the state’s population, live in lower-income communities where there are not many food stores, and the existing ones don’t offer many healthy options,” Elling continued.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the recent budget resolution is that the NYS Assembly declined to fund either program. The AHA/ASA believes that these programs can ultimately help reduce the cost of obesity-related medical expenses, which currently tops $11.8 billion every single year.
About six out of 10 adults in NY, in addition to one-third of the state’s children, are at risk of developing diet-related diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. There is strong evidence that regular physical activity can help to lower the risk of cardiovascular illnesses, but experts agree that poor eating habits are the root cause of health issues in this state.
While NY continues to flounder in its attempts to make people healthier, another state is succeeding in improving access to fruits and vegetables in underserved communities.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the Montgomery County Wellness Coalition recently expanded its Healthy Corner Store Program, bringing the number of stores that are funded by the program from five to 10.
The Healthy Corner Store Program brings fresh produce and other goods to “food deserts” throughout the River Region of Alabama. The corner stores are earning an average gross profit of 30% on the produce they now carry, and residents are thrilled to have these new options at their disposal.
With evidence pouring in from other states proving that these programs work, the AHA/ASA is urging the Senate and Assembly to support full funding of both the Healthy Food and Healthy Communities Fund and the Healthy Corner Store Program.
There is no timetable for the Senate and Assembly to make their final decision on funding the initiatives, but the clock is certainly ticking for unhealthy children and adults in NYS.