Saving our culture: A nutritional overview, Part 1

ST. PETERSBURG — Midtown is an urban community located in a 5.51 square mile area just south of downtown St. Petersburg.  It is between Second Avenue North and 30th Avenue South and extends east to west from Fourth Street to 34th Street.

Along the 22nd street block, you can find an array of black cultural memoirs on buildings and a strip of black owned establishments. Although, you see a variety of businesses throughout this historic neighborhood, what you do not see are any food markets. The closest grocery store from Midtown is approximately three miles away and is not within walking range.

According, to the United State Drug and Food Administration (USDA), a “food desert” is a low-income community that has a population that exceeds 500 people and is over half a mile away from a supermarket, supercenter or large grocery store. The lack of access to fresh food puts this neighborhood at risk for many health problems.

The African-American culture is filled with “soul food “that contains large amounts of meat, fat, salt and sugar. African Americans typically choose foods such as fried chicken, barbecue ribs, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pie and sugary drinks. From eating this type of diet, there is an increased risk of health-related illnesses such as obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Although this community is at a greater risk of developing the health conditions listed above, they are all preventable by dieting and exercising. The recommended caloric intake is less than 2,000 per day and the recommended weekly physical activity is 150 minutes.

Being healthy does not mean eliminating all the foods you enjoy, but the key is proportioning your servings. An example plate of a standard serving according to the Food Pyramid should consist of one serving of a meat the size of a deck of cards, one serving of cooked vegetables the size of a tennis ball, one serving of raw vegetables comparable to a light bulb and one serving of a starch the size a computer mouse.

The focus should be on becoming healthy, not thin, due to eating less meat and putting the emphasis on vegetables and fruit such as an undressed sweet potato, yams, collard greens, okra, and watermelon.

To encourage individuals in Midtown to eat healthily, the city of St. Pete is offering a Midtown Grocery Pilot Program. This program provides shuttles to the Walmart Supercenter located in the Central Avenue District between 10-2 p.m. on Saturdays through August.

As your neighborhood pharmacists, we hope that you take away three things from this article: First is the lack of access to healthy foods in Midtown, second is the portion size and lastly, it is about being healthy, not thin. For our culture to stay alive, we must first start with becoming healthy.

Jasmine LaVine, PharmD Candidate
Joshua Peterside, PharmD Candidate
Florida A & M University, College of Pharmacy, Tampa Bay Division
Charlie W. Colquitt, PharmD, CPh
Associate Professor of Pharmacy of Pharmacy Practice
Florida A & M University, College of Pharmacy, Tampa Bay Division
Clinical Pharmacist
Community Health Centers of Pinellas, Inc.

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