Featuring the second contribution from our guest blogger, advocate Pratyusha Pilla!
I hate when there’s nothing good to eat in my fridge. I’ll open it, glance around disappointedly, and then open it 10 minutes later almost expecting a different result. While it may be relatable to anyone else who has had unfulfilled munchies, this is an “issue” that some people simply don’t have the means to encounter.
Many of us can get into our cars and make a quick run to the Kroger around the corner when we run out of tomatoes, but grocery stores aren’t abundant in every area. 3.4 million people in Texas alone lack access to healthy food. The furthest I’ve moved from the suburbs was living in downtown Austin during my time at UT. Even then, there were markets just off campus and an HEB a bus ride away. But what about inner cities and rural areas where there isn’t a grocery store a hop away? How can a family feed their children healthy and nourishing food when they simply don’t have access?
Alongside access comes the issue of affordability. It doesn’t take much to realize that fruits and veggies are more expensive than a $4 quarter pounder or a $2 bag of chips that will satisfy a hungry child. A lack of access to healthy food has been linked to obesity for this very region. Children who are overweight or even obese can actually be starved of nutrients. Children are a very vulnerable population, and, as a society, we need to protect their health. Take action with me by sending a quick message to your legislators about this today!
Another facet of healthy living is physical education. Being active is just as important as eating wholesome food. The American Heart Association recommends that kids get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily. While we can encourage parents to maintain an active lifestyle for their children, there is no way to ensure or regulate this. As a result, children do fall behind, losing the chance to develop stamina and healthy habits at a young age. A way to combat this is upholding the role of physical education in schools. This way, a standard is maintained regarding the activity levels of young children. The average school’s annual budget for physical education is a measly $768. Physical education is a simple way to ensure the fitness of children and to sustain a national standard, allowing at least an hour of activity per day.
With one third of our nation’s children qualifying as obese or overweight, it is crucial to address the health and wellness of this vulnerable population. We can make a difference by contacting our lawmakers and voicing our support. The Closer to My Grocer initiative includes a Texas Grocery Access Task Force which works for policy solutions to bring healthy food to communities that lack access. Making the healthy choice the easy choice for kids and their families is imperative, since the habits we develop a young age can follow us for the rest of our lives. At the American Heart Association, with your help, we intend to incite this type of positive change!