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It is easier to eat healthy when neighborhoods have stores, restaurants, markets, and gardens that provide attractive, affordable healthy foods. People eat away from home more now than ever before, and people who eat away from home eat higher fat, higher calorie foods than those who prepare
In 2005, most Washington adults (84%) said they could find many healthy food choices available in their local grocery store. But fewer (59%) said they could find healthy food for meals eaten away from home at delis or restaurants.
meals at home.(8) Diet quality and the prevalence of overweight are associated with the type, location, and number of grocery stores, convenient stores, supermarkets, and restaurants in a neighborhood.(9,10) Food choices are also influenced by the variety and quality of foods, portion sizes, and price of foods available in restaurants, grocery stores, and convenient stores in their neighborhoods.(11)
Getting to the store is sometimes a barrier to eating healthy. Transportation for food shopping can be difficult for rural residents, those with disabilities, and those who depend on public transportation. Comprehensive transportation planning includes consideration of the need for active transportation by walking or biking to food markets as well as access to food outlets by those who do not use private cars.
Local partners from land-use planning, public health, agriculture, transportation, restaurants, retail food sector, food service, anti-hunger advocates, and others can come together to build a strong and comprehensive community food system. Food systems planning can preserve farmland, encourage mixed use neighborhoods with access to grocery stores and farmers markets, establish green space through community gardens, and promote wise use of transportation resources.(12) King County’s Acting Food Policy Council is made up of representatives from city and county government, food and anti-hunger organizations, grocery stores, academic departments, and community groups. The council’s goal is to ensure that all residents have access to nutritious, fresh food that is produced and distributed in a just manner; and that farming, food processing and distribution flourish as part of the local economy and contribute to a healthy environment.(13)
The American Planning Association adopted a series of policies on community and regional food planning.(12) The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) conducted a Health Impact Assessment in Puyallup to assess potential health consequences of neighborhood restaurants and grocery stores. The assessment is used by TPCHD in its work with the planning commission to ensure access to healthy foods. The Seattle Food Systems Enhancement Project, after conducting a community food assessment, recommended that Seattle consider economic incentives or rezoning for retail stores in neighborhoods with limited food resources as a way to increase access to quality food sources.
Many customers will choose healthier menu items when they are marketed as healthy or offered at a lower cost than less healthy items.(17,18) Restaurants can often offer healthier options to community residents at the same price as the less healthy options, a strategy implemented by the Rainier Valley Health Coalition. Following consultation with dietitians, 12 diverse, ethnic restaurants made changes to recipes to make them lower in calories and fat and added more healthy foods to their menus.
The Gig Harbor YMCA has made the healthy choice the easy choice in their new facility. They provide only healthy items in vending machines. The YMCA also encourages healthy role modeling among the employees by having healthy foods at employee potlucks and discouraging fast food consumption at work.