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Nutritious Options for All

Efforts underway to increase access to healthier foods

By Doris Steadman

The Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) is making significant progress, thanks to the united efforts of numerous Valley organizations and non-profit groups.

One of the primary groups within the initiative is the Healthy Eating and Food Quality Workgroup whose goal is to enhance nutritional education and access to healthy food for all members of our community.

At their recent progress meeting, several organizations presented action steps they are taking to help achieve the bold steps outlined in the CHMI’s Coachella Valley Blueprint for Action.

Lisa Houston of FIND Food Bank addressed the importance of having access to healthy food options within five miles of every Valley home. To provide access for those without, her organization is considering options for a “mobile grocer,” a vehicle which could provide farmer’s market produce at a regularly scheduled time in a given area.

Christy Porter of Hidden Harvest has been actively engaged in a program called “Just One Row.” She is asking farmers to dedicate one row or more for her organization to glean produce after harvest is complete. Statistics show that 27% of produce is left after harvest, and Christy would like to see that produce go to further FIND Food Bank’s efforts of distribution.

Hidden Harvest has also partnered with Coachella Valley High School to re-establish their 2 ½ acre farm at the school. A Hidden Harvest consultant will work with students for six months to get the fields established, and the students will then manage its progress. Many local farmers are helping with the effort as they are so pleased to see the farm working again. The plan is to grow produce which has the highest nutritional value for those who need it most, and the students working the farm will get credit for their endeavors. This project is sure to produce a few new farmers in the region as well!

Lenea Pollett of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is working with all three school districts to implement new wellness policies for staff and students. She stated that over 50% of Coachella Valley children are overweight or obese and emphasized the importance of getting parents, teachers and the whole community to support healthy food in the schools. She adds that education is key.

Humana has recently given the Alliance a grant to study all 4th grade students valley-wide. The students will record on a computer what they are eating weekly, their physical activity and their sleeping habits. HARC will work with the data and send out monthly reports to the students and the schools. This information will be used to motivate the masses.

This incredible group of people is working hard to help improve the nutritional health of our community. They are just one of a variety of workgroups taking action to make the Coachella Valley a healthier place to live.

 To volunteer or collaborate, please call FIND Food Bank (760) 775.3663 or Hidden Harvest (760) 398.8183. For information on the CHMI, visit www.clintonfoundation.org/healthmatters.

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