By Kathy Cunningham and Abigail Hueber

Grassroots movements and big picture public policy are beginning to sing to a similar tune, both recognizing the need for change in the state of our food system to better the health of our nation and our planet. Be a part of the movement in your own community, every step each of us makes towards bettering our food culture and our food system is one more step towards better health for our nation. This Monday, October 24, share in the celebration of Food Day in your community and discuss how each of us can work towards the Six Principles of Food Day in our own lives. No step is too big or too small.

It’s time to Eat Real, America.

(1) Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods

Start your Food Day by reflecting on your own eating habits. Where about your diet or eating habits do you think you could improve? Choose one goal to focus on. Maybe it is to reduce the number of sugary drinks you drink or incorporate a fruit or vegetable at each snack or meal. Any small change you make for your health is one step closer. Write down your goal and start small.

(2) Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness

When you shop at a local Farmer’s Market that money goes directly to the farmer as opposed to when a farm sells their goods to larger distributor and they do not get as much of a profit. Find a local Farmer’s market, CSA or grocery store that sells local produce near you. Make your dollars count and support your local growers. Check out Mass.gov to find one near you. Winter CSA’s and winter Farmer’s Markets exist too!

(3) Expand access to food and alleviate hunger

Citizens and the government have worked to expand access for healthful foods to alleviate hunger through a multitude of programs. Right here in Boston, the BPHC is working in conjunction with the Boston Food and Fitness Collaborative to introduce more fresh produce into areas that lack adequate access, such as in Mattapan and East Boston. Working towards the same principles as those set out by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative to eliminate food desserts and expand access to
fresh food for all.

(4) Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms

Factory Farms are a huge burden on our planet; from the harmful gases that are released from livestock to the increased use of antibiotics, these factory farms stress our water systems and erode our fertile farm lands. Exercise you’re buying power and eat one less meat based meal per week. Join the Meatless Monday campaign to decrease the negative effects of factory farming on our planet.

(5) Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids

Studies have shown that children are not able to distinguish the difference between a television show and a media marketing ad. Children are the most susceptible targets for media advertisements; companies utilize animated and exciting tactics to encourage consumption of lesser nutritious foods and beverages that are hurting our youth in the end. Make a conscious choice to limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television, instead go for a walk or bike ride, play a game together, read a book or do an activity that stimulates your child in more ways to begin to decrease the amount of media influence your child is exposed to.

(6)    Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

Many food and farm workers are not provided equal protection or pay for their work. Many of these positions expose workers to dangerous conditions or hazardous chemicals while supplying them with less than minimum wage. Citizen pressures in states such as, California, Oregon and Washington have rallied for companies to adopt voluntary adherence to stronger standards and government intervention, but a great deal of work is still needed to better the system for all.

It is time to make a change in our whole system, not only to demand fair treatment for the hands that work tirelessly to produce our food but to change our personal habits to better our health and the health of our planet.

It’s time to get real with our food. Food Day, October 24, 2011

For more information of what you can do to celebrate Food Day go to FoodDay.org and search Boston  to find out what ‘s going on near you.

Kathy Cunningham is a registered dietitian at the Boston Public Health Commission. This blog was co-written by Abigail Hueber, Simmons dietetic intern.

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