California officials gathered today at a local farmers’ market to emphasize to California shoppers the importance of selecting healthy foods, even during tough economic times.
“Including fresh fruits and vegetables on the grocery list continues to be as important as ever,” said Dr. Mark Horton, the director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
According to CDPH, more than half of adult Californians are overweight or obese, and 41 percent of California children ages 9 to 11 are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight. Recent studies show one-third of low-income children are already overweight by the age of five. Eating more fruits and vegetables every day and increasing physical activity helps prevent obesity and other serious health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
The Food Network’s popular celebrity chef, Tyler Florence, was also on hand to share his latest tips and recipes.
With California already battling an obesity epidemic, CDPH’s largest nutrition education and nutrition assistance program, the Network for a Healthy California, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, continue to educate low-income families about the importance of making healthy choices.
The Network for a Healthy California is largely funded by the federal Food Stamp Program and works toward improving the health status of low-income Californians by promoting increased fruit and vegetable consumption and daily physical activity. Participation in California’s Food Stamp Program by those not already receiving CalWORKs or other assistance increased 21 percent between January of 2008 and December 2008, from 628,000 to 764,000 cases. A steady increase in WIC participation has also occurred, currently at almost 1.5 million participants per month.
“On April 1, food stamp benefits increased 13.6 percent as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” said John Wagner, director of the California Department of Social Services. “This gives low-income families additional means to purchase healthy food at more than 19,000 retailers and grocery stores and many of the 183 farmers’ market locations across the state.”
Farmers’ market season starts next month and several tables of colorful fruits and vegetables were displayed to showcase the variety of excellent seasonal choices available to Californians.
“Locally grown fruits and vegetables are always great choices,” said A.G. Kawamura, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “California farmers’ markets provide access to excellent, California grown products.”
The cooking demonstration also included the Network Champion Moms and WIC Moms who shared their own stories on how they are making it through this poor economy.
“I know how hard it is to keep health a priority when you’re on a tight budget. I’m here to say, it can be done,” said Jamilia Ashworth, Champion Mom as she prepared a vegetable quesadilla recipe from the Network’s Everyday Healthy Meals cookbook.
WIC Mom, Amy Redelsperger, added, “The WIC Program taught me about buying healthy foods for my family and how to use these foods to make meals my family loves. Healthy habits begin at birth and the WIC Program shows moms like me the importance of breastfeeding and good nutrition.”
Public Health Week is celebrated April 6-12. This year’s theme is: California: Think Healthy. Live Healthy.
WIC is a federally-funded health and nutrition program for women, infants, and children. WIC helps families by providing checks for buying healthy supplemental foods from WIC-authorized vendors, nutrition education, and help finding healthcare and other community services. Participants must meet income guidelines and be pregnant women, new mothers, infants or children under age five. In California, 82 WIC agencies provide services locally at over 600 sites throughout the state.
The mission of the Network for a Healthy California is to create innovative partnerships that empower low-income Californians to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity and food security with the goal of preventing obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases. The Network’s “Champions for Change” public awareness campaign provides nutrition and physical activity messages to low-income mothers in California communities.