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Advocate for a Healthier Community

May 5, 2014
By

LAUREN FRIED

Image Credit: LAUREN FRIED

Community and religious groups are a well positioned to initiate and coordinate activities that encourage healthy living. According to the national organization LetsMove.gov, trusted leaders in neighborhoods and congregations can empower families to make better choices and lead healthier lives.

Here are five steps you follow to become an advocate in your community:

-       Encourage parents to make healthy choices. Remind parents that it takes time and routine to make changes in their families. But try to encourage parents to make healthier choices in their own homes. But provide healthy alternatives at community events such as water over soda and fruits and vegetables over chips and candy. Schedule a meeting for parents to attend on healthy eating.

-       Advocate for healthier schools. Begin a Farmer’s Market or work with the school to heighten healthy offerings at school lunch programs. Call the National Hunger Hotline  at 1-866-3-HUNGRY for more information. There are more than 31 million kids participating in the National School Lunch Program and more  than 11 million participating in the National Breakfast Program, so helping to provide alternative choices can make a huge difference.

-       Get out and move. Host a walk-a-thon or support a local youth sports league to get kids moving. Sign up for the President’s Active Lifestyle Challenge and host the challenge within your organization. Schedule family hikes as a group to get people moving together.

-       Part of the problem with healthy eating is access. According to recent statistics, more than 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children live in low-income neighborhoods known as “food deserts,” areas that are more than a mile away from the nearest grocery store. Help these people gain access to fresh produce and whole grains by having your group organize a food pantry annual food drive or a recurring farmer’s market. Have your group connect with a local food bank to provide access to people who otherwise go without.

-       Plant a community garden. Create a committee to begin the planning process and to gain enthusiasm to get started. Once the responsibilities are divvied up, find the land and secure the site. Government agencies like the National Parks Association allow for groups to use public parks for gardens. Talk to your local politicians about potential sites and encourage their participation to help secure a site and see the garden grow to fruition.