Washington State Nutrition & Physical Activity Plan
Nutrition Obj. 1: Priority Recommendation A
Assure that communities provide access to healthy foods and beverages

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.

Examples of Activities

Establish regional and local food planning mechanisms, such as food policy councils to set priorities in increasing access to healthy foods.

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)

Use planning strategies to increase access to healthy food.

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.

Support farm to institution programs.
Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, a 501(c)3 based in Mount Vernon, in partnership with the Economic Development Association of Skagit County, is working to link farmers to healthcare institutions. Hospitals will benefit from the opportunity to use local, sustainable food to promote nutrition and wellness, while Skagit growers will have more secure and diverse markets by contracting with local and regional healthcare agencies.(14)
Support farmers market programs that make vegetables and fruits more accessible and available to disadvantaged populations.
The Washington State WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) successfully provides vegetables and fruits from farmers markets to nutritionally at risk women, infants and children and increases awareness and use of the markets. Washington WIC participants reported that the FMNP increases their access to fresh fruits and vegetables and that their families eat more fruits and vegetables during FMNP time than during other times of the year.(15) The WIC and Senior Farmers Market programs also help to assure the financial sustainability of local markets and farmers. In Mount Vernon, residents at senior housing can take free transportation to the Wednesday farmers market at Skagit Valley Hospital.
Support use of Electronic Benefit Transfer point of purchase machines at farmers markets.
Since food stamps went from paper stamps to Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), farmers markets have created new systems so food stamp participants can shop at the markets. Port Townsend Farmers Market has an EBT system in place and is marketing this change to food stamp participants to increase the number who shop at the market.
Support community gardens.
To be successful, a community garden needs commitment by local leaders and staff, community participation, and provision of skill-building activities.(16) Moses Lake is the site of two community gardens. A downtown garden serves local businesses and community groups, and a garden in a low-income neighborhood enhances access to produce in a part of town where residents have very little access to fruits and vegetables.
Support healthier choices in dining out venues.

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.

Support healthier food choices throughout the community environment.

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.

Support healthier food choices in child care settings.
Child care settings can be important influences on food intake of infants and young children.(19) In the United States, 60 percent of children from birth to five years old spend an average of 29 hours per week in child-care facilities.(20) Maria Consuelo Lopez, a family home child-care provider in Shoreline, takes full advantage of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and provides freshly prepared healthy foods for the children in her care. Ms. Lopez goes beyond the basic nutrition requirements of CACFP: the children are often served organic foods and enjoy a variety of homemade ethnic foods.