Health organizations and partners call for improved access to healthy food for kids and families
Nearly 3 million New Yorkers live in lower-income communities with limited healthy food options
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, Food Industry Alliance, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the Alliance of New York State YMCAs joined forces on March 7 to call for the final state budget to include funding to make it easier for kids and families to eat healthy. The groups were joined by lawmakers supporting funding to help improve healthy food retail in underserved communities all across New York.
The coalition is asking for $15 million in funding to boost New York’s nearly depleted Healthy Food Financing Initiative, and $3 million to establish a Healthy Corner Store Program. Those funds would reinstate the Healthy Food and Healthy Communities Program. Healthy food financing would be a driver for a strong economy and improved health, since it would allow for the building of food markets in areas without them. The Healthy Corner Store program would support existing stores to improve their infrastructure in order to offer healthier food.
“In my community, which is home to some of the most challenged neighborhoods in our country, access to nutritious, affordable food continues to be a barrier for too many families,” said Senator Rich Funke, R-Fairport. “I’m proud to stand with my fellow partners in government, the non-profit community, and the private sector to call for continued investment in the Healthy Food and Healthy Communities Program. Together, we can feed a healthier, stronger, and more prosperous New York State.”
“The deteriorating health of our residents will bankrupt our health care system and our state if the present rates of adult and childhood obesity continue to climb. Over 37 percent of adults in New York State are now considered pre-diabetic. There are over 500,000 Medicaid recipients classified as Type 2 Diabetic and 10,000 of them are children under 18 years of age. This is a disease caused primarily by lifestyle and because of food deserts where there is a virtual absence of access to healthy foods. These numbers tell of a larger crisis in the making. Healthy Food and Healthy Communities has proven it can help reverse these trends. It needs continued support,” declared Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo, D-Bronx, member of the Speaker’s Anti-Poverty Work Group and Chair of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force.
Six out of ten adults in New York, and one-third of the state’s children, are at serious risk for diet-related diseases, which can be influenced by unhealthy nutrition. The cost of treating the chronic diseases related to excessive weight is staggering: related medical expenses in New York State are estimated at more than $11.8 billion annually. To address this burden, every community must have access to affordable, healthy food. But many New Yorkers cannot get the healthy food they need. In fact, 32 of New York’s 62 counties struggle with access to healthy food.
“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,” said Kristin Salvi, New York state government relations director for the American Heart Association. “Eating more fruits and vegetables can decrease the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. Investing $15 million in the Healthy Food Financing Initiative and $3 million in improving the state’s smaller corner stores are great ways to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.”
“Poor nutrition and the consumption of high-calorie foods and beverages are major contributors to excess weight and increase the risk of cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends consuming a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods, in order to reduce cancer risk,” said Julie Hart, director of New York government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “Sadly, in many low income communities across the state, kids and families don’t have access to a grocery store or healthy food. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network urges legislators to include funding to improve access to healthy foods in the final state budget.”
“Foods stores are often the hub for many other businesses that support a robust economy, and community,” said Maston Sansom, Esq., vice president, government relations for the Food Industry Alliance of New York State. “This initiative will be instrumental in overcoming the hurdles associated with offering fresh produce and other healthy foods in areas where it is most needed. The Food Industry Alliance of New York is proud to be a partner in this effort.”
“A lack of supermarkets has been shown to contribute to unhealthy eating and poor health outcomes,” said Kyle Stewart, Executive Director of the Alliance of New York State YMCAs. “The Y urges legislators to include funding to improve healthy food access for New Yorkers in the final budget. As a leading nonprofit dedicated to improving the nation’s health, the Y strives to make the healthy choice the easy choice in the places where people live, work, learn and play. Too many communities in New York State are considered food deserts; therefore, families struggle to eat nutritiously.”
The New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus recently included a total of $18 million to fund healthy food access improvements in the People’s Budget. That total includes $15 million for Healthy Food Financing to bring grocery stores to underserved lower-income neighborhoods and $3 million to help improve access to healthy foods in small retail outlets such as corner stores and convenience stores.
A recent report, Healthy Food = Healthy Economy, details New York State’s work to improve healthy food access and its impact on the state’s economy. It breaks down the current status of healthy food access in the state and the health problems associated with lack of access. Healthy food access is defined as living within one mile of a grocery store with healthy food options in urban areas and within 10 miles in rural areas, among other criteria.
The Healthy Food = Healthy Economy report shows investing in healthy food retail and improving access to healthy foods can help keep both the New York community and the New York economy healthy. Read the full report and see the list of supporting organizations here.