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March 25, 2010 Published in Health & Fitness, Other News

Eat Healthier Alexandria

Alexandrians are urged to eat healthier foods. (Photo: Regan Kireilis)

Just as U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new rules for school lunch, the Alexandria City Council passed a resolution establishing “Healthy Food Alexandria”, an initiative that supports nutritional and environmental goals for the City. Alexandria is the second jurisdiction in the nation to pass such a resolution. It is also one of the most obese cities in the region.

“With childhood hunger and obesity on the rise we owe it to our children to ensure our nutrition programs address these challenges,” said Vilsack. “The President and First Lady have asked the American people to join in this effort not only for our children, but for the future of our country. And this year presents an unprecedented opportunity to improve the health and well being of our children when Congress considers legislation to improve the Child Nutrition Act.”

Healthy Food Alexandria supports the creation of a citywide, citizen-led initiative to increase Alexandria residents’ access to locally grown, environmentally sustainable foods by increasing public awareness, encouraging the development of citizen-initiated community gardens and expanded access to farmers’ markets.

The goals are:

  • increased public awareness through educational events and by providing special recognition to restaurants, businesses and organizations that use local food produced by sustainable methods
  • increased access to healthy, local foods for low-income communities by seeking opportunities to allow food stamps to be accepted at farmers’ markets
  • supported community education efforts to help children learn more about healthy, local food by expanding locally sourced foods in their school-provided meals
  • facilitating partnerships between the city, community organizations, non-profits, local businesses, faith-based organizations and local farmers to increase access to locally produced foods by offering classes and workshops in gardening, nutrition and cooking.

The resolution is a collaborative effort between a group of residents and the ACHIEVE Planning Team of the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria. The team received a grant from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control to work with policy and grassroots leaders to reduce childhood obesity. Endorsed by the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria and the City’s Environmental Policy Commission, the resolution is consistent with the goals of the City’s Environmental Action Plan for 2030.

A strong reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act is the legislative centerpiece for First Lady Michelle Obama, who recently announced in Alexandria her Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation.

“We must also continue to work towards reducing barriers and ensuring that all eligible children can participate in our school meals programs,” said Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon.

Altogether, more than 31 million children are served through the National School Lunch Program and 11 million children are served through the National School Breakfast Program. Administration priorities include eliminating barriers that keep children from participating in school nutrition programs, improving the quality of school meals and the health of the school environment.