Wholesome meals techniques can enhance well being and resilience

Michael Dimock | Roots of change

Access to healthy food systems affects every aspect of our lives.

When hungry stomachs impair students’ ability to concentrate, learn, and retain information, their education suffers. In adults, lack of access to nutritious food leads to overall poor health and chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes – all of which negatively impacts their ability to work and the care of their families.

This year we’ve seen COVID-19 exploit Californians with chronic diseases, especially people of color who often live in “food deserts” where healthy food is less available.

Roots of Change and others are working to resolve food injustices like this, but the stark realities exposed by COVID-19 show that more help is needed and needed now. The Health and Racial Justice Fund and Governor Newsom can make a difference.

The Senate and Assembly Budgets Committee has recommended an unprecedented annual investment of $ 100 million that would support community-based organizations, clinics, and tribal organizations addressing the root causes of health inequalities. Our vision is for organizations awarded these funds to use state and local data to identify the most pressing needs in their community and develop strategies to address them.

The proposal builds on Bill Gipson and Carillo, AB 1038, calling for the establishment of a California Health Equity Fund, which the convention passed with strong bipartisan support. The governor must now agree to support the bill and the budget proposal.

Current programs that the fund may be able to use include the California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP), which provides dollars to CalFresh families to “make fresh things affordable,” and the Healthy Corner Stores Refrigeration Grant Program, the Bodegas and Low-Income Corner Stores provide communities with refrigeration equipment and technical assistance so they can sell fresh produce.

The fund could also be used to support the pilot medical food prescription program, another proposal pending in the legislature. Through this program, Medi-Cal beneficiaries would receive “prescriptions” for healthy foods if their health care providers found that healthier diets could improve their underlying health conditions. Prescriptions can include products, healthy food vouchers, grocery boxes, groceries, or convenience foods.

Another use of the California Health Equity Fund could be in support of the School Food Hub Pilot Program, a proposal to create “food hubs” across the state that will help identify, market and distribute healthy local foods to California Distributing school districts not only helps ensure better nutrition for students but also supports local farmers and rural communities hard hit by COVID-19.

Having daily access to healthy food can prevent disease and better protect our communities against viruses like COVID-19. Through the California Health Equity Fund, we can address this current health crisis, help avoid billions in future healthcare costs, and empower our communities to better prepare them for the challenges posed by pandemics, climate change, and natural disasters.

California is the greatest source of healthy food the planet has ever seen. There is no excuse for so many churches to forego it. Especially if we can use that abundance to improve public health. AB 1038 will invest in communities hardest hit by the pandemic, helping them recover from the physical and economic losses caused by the virus, building healthier communities, and ensuring Californians are more resilient to future crises. We call on Governor Newsom to endorse the proposed funding for the Health and Racial Justice Fund and to adopt and sign AB 1038.

Roots of Change is a co-sponsor of AB 1038. The nonprofit works with universities, governments, corporations and like-minded organizations to ensure that every aspect of the food supply chain – from cultivation to consumption – is healthy and accessible, safe and accessible to all eaters fair for workers and profitable for companies.

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