From-nutrition-to-public-policy-Improving-healthy-food-access

From nutrition to public policy: Improving healthy food access

As the farm-to-table movement grows, nutrition and health professionals can be valuable contributors to public policymaking related to local foods and health, according to findings from the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC).

Last year, faculty and staff at the Tulane PRC explored strategies for improving public health in Louisiana by conducting policy research and educating lawmakers. Several of the strategies were incorporated into state legislation, and two focused on leveraging local food production, especially of fresh fruits and vegetables, as a way to encourage healthy eating in schools and families.
The Tulane PRC’s work was published in the June issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“The farm-to-table strategies were of interest to lawmakers for both health and economic reasons,” said Diego Rose, the Tulane PRC faculty who led the recent work and who is also head of the nutrition section at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “Increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables can lead to a number of improved health outcomes, and facilitating local purchase of these foods helps develop Louisiana’s agricultural sector. By dialoging with policymakers, nutrition and health professionals can help improve public policy, which can ultimately lead to long-term improvements in public health and local agriculture.”

In particular, the Tulane PRC’s research informed a resolution establishing a state study group tasked with identifying how to set up a statewide farm-to-school program. Farm-to-school programs can facilitate the purchase of locally produced foods by schools and increase their consumption by students. The research also informed the creation of a resolution that directed the state to allow farmers markets to accept Cash Value Vouchers, a type of food assistance benefit under the Women, Infants, and Children program. The vouchers can be used to buy fruits and vegetables, enabling low-income residents another way to increase their consumption of these healthful foods, while benefiting local farmers. Eighteen other states already allow these vouchers to be used at farmers markets.

The journal article outlines important steps for nutrition and health professionals to take in developing strategies and educating policymakers, such as working with a political champion to guide the strategy and scope. The authors also recommended professionals review research and best practices, scan states for similar strategies, and interview key informants, or people with valuable insight and experience in the field of work.

Read more in the June issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics by clicking here. For more information about the Tulane PRC’s work to identify strategies for improving Louisiana’s public health, click here.

By Naomi Englar, Tulane PRC

(Photo by Tulane PRC staff: Sankofa market customer Linda Hughes buys produce from New Orleans farmer Jamal Elhayek.)

Topics:   policy , nutrition , diet , agriculture , food environment , school food , childhood obesity , obesity , wic , farmers market

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