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Bisbee: Healthy eating leads to healthy state – Journal Record

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Julie Bisbee
Julie Bisbee

March is National Nutrition Month, making this a good time to consider how nutrition and health affect our communities and workforce. It is far too easy for many of us to forget that having easy access to healthy foods is no sure thing for many Oklahomans.

About 1 in 7 households throughout the state are food insecure, according to Hunger Free Oklahoma, which adds that “hunger costs Oklahoma over $1.4 billion each year through increased illness and decreased academic achievement.”

Regularly eating highly processed foods can lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Unhealthy eating habits cost Americans about $50 billion in health care costs, according to a recent study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

A great place to start is to consume more fruits and vegetables – a metric where Oklahoma ranks last among the 50 states. Just adding one more fruit and one vegetable to one’s daily diet can help. But many Oklahomans face barriers to even this simple step.

Many low-income families struggle with nutrition because they lack transportation and live in a food desert, meaning the closest grocery store that sells a variety of fresh, healthy food is too far to easily access.

Oklahoma City has the ninth-highest percentage of metro-area residents who live in a food desert, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture 2019 data. About 22 percent of metro residents are in low-income households who live at least a half mile from an urban grocery store that sells a variety of fresh, nutritious foods or at least 10 miles from the nearest rural grocery store.

But steps are being taken to address these disparities.

Farmers markets bring locally produced healthy foods closer to more people. A growing number of farmers markets and stores help struggling families stretch their grocery budget by accepting Double Up Oklahoma, which matches up to $20 a day in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spending with additional vouchers for fresh produce. When the grocery sales tax of 4.5 percent ends in August it may remove additional barriers for affordable and nutritious foods.

Workplaces also have a role to play and can offer nutritious food options for staff in practical ways. Helpful tips and resources for promoting wellness in the workplace are available at https://shapeyourfutureok.com/get-involved/at-work/.

A healthy state cannot happen without healthy eating. Local and statewide efforts are underway to make that increasingly possible for all Oklahomans.

Julie Bisbee is executive director of Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.

This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned in the title of this site

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