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Fruits and Vegetables/Community

Action steps to increase access to healthy food in the community include:

  1. Communities should improve geographic availability of supermarkets via a variety of strategies such as incentives, relaxing zoning requirements, and/or small business programs.
    People cannot consume a healthy diet unless healthy foods are available, affordable, and convenient. Research suggests that neighborhood residents who have better access to supermarkets and grocery stores tend to have healthier diets and lower levels of obesity. Unfortunately, many communities across the U.S. lack access to healthy food options. Communities without supermarkets should explore incentives such as grants and loan programs, small business development programs and tax incentives that encourage grocery stores to locate in underserved areas. Localities and local zoning boards can also relax zoning requirements that make it difficult for supermarkets to move into densely populated urban areas and rural communities, provide parking subsidies and implement policies that encourage that recently closed grocery stores can be replaced by another one as quickly as possible.

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  3. Encourage farmers' markets, farm stands, mobile markets, community gardens, and youth-focused gardens in your community by offering incentives and/or modified land use policies/zoning regulations.
  4. Improving the availability and accessibility of farmers markets is another strategy to increase fresh, healthy food options for children and families. Research suggests that promoting farmers' markets can increase fruit and vegetable intake. In addition, community gardens and garden-based nutrition intervention programs may also have the potential to promote increased fruit and vegetable intake and may increase willingness to taste fruits and vegetables among children and youth.

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  5. Encourage farmers' markets to accept WIC and SNAP.
  6. Encouraging farmers' markets to accept Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) would facilitate the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by low-income families. Local governments could provide subsidies to farmers' markets that accept the SNAP electronic benefit cards or communities can work with market managers to lower vendor fees so vendors can offer lower priced items.

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  7. Create incentive programs for markets and other food vendors to carry healthier foods.
    Create incentive programs to enable current small food store owners in underserved areas to carry healthier, affordable food items (e.g., grants or loans to purchase refrigeration equipment to store fruits, vegetables, and fat-free/low-fat dairy; free publicity; a city awards program; or linkages to wholesale distributors).

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  8. Increase availability of healthy food in public venues.

    Establish strong nutrition standards for foods and beverages for all publicly operated cafeterias, vending options, and community events.

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  9. Enhance accessibility to existing grocery stores through public safety efforts and through increased public transportation routes.
    In communities where either safety or access issues are barriers explore strategies to improve safety and transportation access. For example, improve public safety around food vendors such as better outdoor lighting and police patrolling.  Consider realigning bus routes or provide other transportation, such as mobile community vans or shuttles to ensure that residents can access supermarkets or grocery stores easily and affordably through public transportation.

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Action steps to limit unhealthy foods in the community include:

  1. Implement zoning and/or establish ordinances designed to limit the number of fast food establishments and mobile vending in the community.
    Limit the number of mobile vending and fast food restaurants in your community by establishing new zoning laws that promote healthy food zones especially near schools, community centers, libraries, and other public venues children and family frequent.

    Recommended by: Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report: Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity

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  2. Communities should restrict availability of less healthy foods in public service venues.

    Policies that restrict the availability of unhealthy foods might discourage the consumption of high-caloric foods by community residents. Communities establish strong nutrition standards for foods and beverages for all publicly operated cafeterias, vending options, and community events

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Action steps for point of purchase in the community include:

  1. Require menu labeling in restaurants to provide consumers with calorie information on menus and menu boards.

    Informed consumers are more likely to make healthier food choices. By requiring that all quick service restaurants include the calorie and fat content of menu items on menus and menu boards, states can help consumers make better and more informed decisions about the food that they are ordering.

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  2. Regulate smaller portion size, low-fat, low-calorie options be available and clearly labeled as such in public service venues.

    Portion sizes have increased dramatically over the past ten years which contributes to increased calorie consumption for people, especially children, who regularly eat out. Communities should encourage food vendors in their communities to provide appropriate portion sizes and include proper descriptions (eg, a medium-size = 6-8 oz).

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  3. Offer incentives to restaurants that promote healthier options.

    Aside from financial incentives, communities can recognize restaurants that provide healthier menu options to consumers (like serving nonfat milk, or apples instead of French fries meals). This recognition can encourage restaurants to serve healthier foods and beverages. It can also help consumers to choose restaurants that are family-friendly and offer healthier options.

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  5. Encourage or incentivize food vendors to adopt family-friendly policies that promote healthy products and limit unhealthy marketing.

    The overall layout of the store affects what we buy. When high-sugar cereals are shelved at children's eye level, children are going to ask their parents for these rather than the healthier breakfast options. When fruit and granola bars, rather than candy and chips, are stocked in the check-out lanes, people are much less likely to make an unhealthy, last-minute impulse buy. Communities can encourage local food vendors to attractively position high-nutrient, low-energy density foods and to limit the marketing of unhealthy foods. In addition, some grocery stores are beginning to label healthy choices.

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  6. Encourage purveyors of vending machines to create healthy vending guidelines and labeling.

    Communities should establish strong nutrition standards for foods and beverages for all publicly operated cafeterias, vending options, and community events. By adopting healthy vending guidelines and labeling the healthy choices in vending machines, consumers are able to make informed decisions about their food intake.

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Action steps to develop media campaigns in the community include:

  1. Develop media campaigns to promote healthy choices and counteract media messaging of unhealthy choices.

    A media campaign aimed at encouraging healthy food choices can encourage children and families to choose healthier options.


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Change Relative Pricing

Action steps to change relative pricing in the community include:

  1. Develop and implement a tax strategy to discourage consumption of food and beverages with minimal nutritional value.

    Localities can tax unhealthy foods to increase revenue while discouraging consumption of unhealthy options. This strategy has mostly been implemented on sugar-sweetened beverages.

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