Good health is both a community responsibility and a community benefit: It goes beyond personal diet, exercise and the many other individual choices we make. The foundation for a healthy life is in the neighborhoods we build and environments we inhabit. When people have access to parks, bike paths, safe playgrounds, healthy foods, and good medical care, they are more likely to succeed in school, work and life.
United Way is creating solutions that help everyone thrive, creating healthier communities that improve our collective quality of life. We’re focused on expanding access to healthy foods, fostering self-reliance and opportunities for physical activity. To do this, we partner with local schools, governments, health agencies and other community partners.
To Bolster Healthy Eating, United Way of Pinal County Has A Goal To Raise $50,000
WHAT MAKES THE PROBLEM WORSE? 1 in 3 working Americans is not earning enough to maintain basic cost of living expenses, 1 in 4 Arizonan’s is on AHCCS and 76% of families in Pinal County are living paycheck to paycheck. Eating a diet rich in fresh produce costs about $1.50 more per day as compared to an unhealthy diet. If a person is receiving SNAP or food bank support, the items are more likely to be highly processed in order to support a long shelf life. Fresh produce is difficult to store for long periods of time and has limited quantity.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Support programs that promote healthy eating and lifestyle choices from an early age and support healthy living throughout life. As a community we need to wrap ourselves around our youth to ensure that they have access to healthy food and health care and develop strong self-confidence so they can withstand the peer pressure for addictive substances. By focusing our attention on the youth we increase the chances they will retain healthy food choices into senior adulthood. Studies have also shown that an increasing number of older adults are now malnourished. We need to increase nutrition education and advocate for sufficient funding for healthy food choices, even on government support systems.
Support backpack programs that reaches young children. With 1 in 4 Pinal County kids living in food insecure homes a program such as this would ensure that even on weekends children receive proper nutrition.
Support the development of local gardens that infuse fresh produce into food banks and neighborhoods. Not all parts of Pinal County have equal access to fresh fruits and vegetables as some areas are designated food deserts. Even in urban areas food banks struggle with access to a steady supply of fresh produce. Producing it locally and distributing it locally can reduce cost of produce and increase availability.
Support prevention programs that focus on stress management and teach lifestyle and coping skills to youth and adults.
What are the hurdles?
Some of the hurdles are system issues starting from the federal level down in the way that food programs are funded. Federal government restrictions on what type of food that can be purchased and quantity of funding create significant restrictions on purchasing power. The cheaper food is usually the highly processed and less nutritious food that is higher in carbs and sugars and other preservatives.
CULTURAL PRACTICES AND TIME
What people eat and how they prepare the food is usually passed down from generation to generation. Changing eating habits can sometimes mean abandoning traditional food. This is hard to do and can be met with resistance. An additional hurdle is that cooking healthier food usually requires some additional prep time, which is hard to come by in today’s busy families.
What are we doing?
Promoting backyard gardening by installing and teaching homeowners how to raise produce that makes sense to grow in our desert climate and then sharing 1/3 of the yield with the local food bank.
Supporting healthy lifestyle training programs for youth that increase self-esteem in youth and decrease the need for substances.
Assist with senior food programming to ensure seniors receive sufficient healthy foods
More about Health at United Way
The United Way strongly supports both Health and Nutrition with a focus on Youth Development so that all youth can develop the life coping skills life requires in order to succeed in adulthood. This is accomplished with a focus on improving the quality of early childhood and after school programs, increasing access to physical and mental health and nutrition services, supporting parent education, increasing the capacity of home gardening programs, promoting healthy lifestyle education for teens and enhancing community awareness of the importance of overall healthy living.