Thursday, March 24, 2016

National Nutrition Month

 


The month of March brings the Northeast the first signs of spring and the beginning of the agricultural season. March also commemorates National Nutrition Month and while it may not be the first thing to cross our minds, it can be a great part of welcoming a new season. 


What is National Nutrition Month? National Nutrition Month is a celebration, focusing on making smart lifestyle choices by incorporating healthy eating habits and moderate physical activity. Here at City Green, we work to bring to light issues of accessibility, availability and affordability. We know that not everyone has access to affordable food – and that even more folks are unaware of the benefits of eating farm fresh produce. Our programs and organization mission are adamant about bringing more education and access to those in underserved communities.

Why Should I Pay Attention? Evidence shows that sticking to a good diet and incorporating regular exercise lowers the risk for chronic disease, injury and depression. Unfortunately, many people do not have easy access to the vegetables and fruits that help compose a healthy diet.  For instance, in 2013, 29.1% of Paterson residents lived below the poverty level. For those with a family to feed who earn a low income, choosing cheaper, processed food items makes financial sense. Our goal is to create better, more affordable healthy food options.

I live in a city and don’t have a car. How am I supposed to access fresh vegetables? Urban settings, like Paterson, NJ, have to get a little creative when it comes to accessing healthy, farm fresh food. At City Green, we will soon kick off our farm stand season, where will bring our locally grown, delicious vegetables to our markets in Paterson, Passaic and Clifton. Through our Eat Better Tonight Double Value Coupon Program, we are able to maximize the amount of food that residents take home – for each $1 spent in SNAP, WIC, or Senior Checks, we credit $1 in City Green Bucks. This ensures that everyone who visits our farm stands and veggie mobile can afford our organically-grown, fresh produce.

The 2015-2020 DietaryGuidelines stated that infectious disease rates have dropped, but chronic diseases that are diet related have been rising rapidly. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines also stated how research has shown that an intake of vegetables and fruits are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, and can prevent against different types of cancers. In Passaic County the three leading causes of death are cancer, cardiac disease and diabetes. A common risk factor for these chronic diseases are obesity. With 25.1% of persons 20years or older being obese in Passaic County, it’s important to take advantage of the fresh and healthy local foods that are available to us through urban agriculture.

This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is ‘Savor the Flavor of Eating Right’, so the goal is to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the great flavors and social experiences food can bring to our lives. What better opportunity to do so than by eating local foods grown right in the area and sharing the experience with the community? Together, and through urban agriculture, we can lower the already high rates of chronic diseases in our communities.


By: Kathryn Mundhenk