According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your zip code is a greater predictor of your health than your genetic code. It not only impacts access to healthy foods, but also your ability to stay active. While it may be difficult to believe, millions living in underserved communities struggle to feed their families healthy meals and keep their kids active without the help of school-provided meals and activities.
Feeding America data shows that 49 million Americans, including nearly 16 million children, live in food “insecure” households, where there is limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Approximately 23 million Americans live in low-income urban and rural neighborhoods more than one mile away from the nearest grocery store. Individuals in at-risk communities also are disproportionately affected by chronic diseases, and many researchers believe that lack of access to nutritious foods is a contributing factor.
“Here at the Aetna Foundation, we are working to make healthy foods readily available, accessible and affordable for more people across the country,” said Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, president of the Aetna Foundation. “Our goal is to promote healthy nutrition and physical activity habits by reaching people directly in their neighborhoods and working hand in hand with local organizations to help make healthy choices easier.”
These quick tips from the Aetna Foundation are designed to encourage people and help them find affordable nutritious foods and easy and fun ways to get and stay physically active.
Visit your local farmer’s market. Take advantage of all the choices of fresh fruits and vegetables being picked and shared by local farmers. In many parts of the country, markets operate year-round, and the USDA National Farmers Market Directory is a great place to start. Many also accept SNAP benefits.
Look for a community garden in your neighborhood. The American Community Gardening Association is a good resource to help find a community garden near your home. Introducing kids to a wide range of freshly grown produce piques their interest and expands their knowledge about nutritious fresh food options.
Let your kids pick. Get your kids excited about trying fresh fruits and vegetables by taking them shopping with you and allowing them to pick out new produce to try, whether you’re at the farmer’s market, grocery or corner store.
Cook together. Whether you share your own culinary knowledge or seek out a cooking class geared toward kids in your community, inviting kids to take part in preparing nutritious meals and snacks is a good way to get them enthusiastic about better-for-you food choices.
Get off the couch. Visit your local park or take a walk or bike ride after dinner. Even when weather keeps the kids inside the house, introduce activities that encourage movement, such as video games with virtual dancing or sports. Indoor games of hide-and-seek and freeze dance or jumping rope during commercials are also fun ways to get moving when you’re stuck inside.
For more information on ways the Aetna Foundation is helping create healthier communities, visit www.aetna-foundation.org.