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Healthy Eating

Encouraging healthy eating

Local policy makers can improve the health of their communities by making sure that everyone has access to healthy foods. Local policy actions can create and environment where there is there is healthy, accessible and affordable food. Creating a healthy eating environment means making sure families have easy access to affordable fruits and vegetables or making sure that it’s easy to identify nutrition information. These are only a few of the actions local policy makers can take to bolster the health of their communities. [1]

Implementation Strategies

+ Nutrition Standands for Food Sold in Government Buildings

Food Service Guidelines show nutrition information of foods sold in cafeterias or vending machines. They can also be used to incentivize the purchase of healthy foods, for example noting which foods are healthier or offering healthier foods at a discount.

  • These nutrition guidelines do change individual choices, and actually increase the purchase of healthier food while decreasing the purchases of unhealthy foods. The CDC has recommended that government agencies use nutrition standards for foods and beverages that they sell or provide. Giving the people the information they need to make allows them to make more informed and healthier choices. 2


+ Pricing incentives for healthier food

Making healthy food more affordable can increase access to healthy foods for people who otherwise might not be able to afford it. Local governments can help incentivize the purchase of healthier foods by enacting policies that make them more affordable

  • Cities and counties can support the sale of both healthy and local foods through policies like offering incentives to local grocery stores and supporting “corner stores” in offering healthier options. 3 Pricing incentives aimed at low income residents through farmers markets can increase fruit and vegetable purchasing, benefitting consumers’ health and farmers’ incomes. [4]

+ Support healthy food access in convenience stores

Convenience stores or gas stations are sometimes the only place to buy food in some neighborhoods. These stores typically sell a limited selection of unhealthy foods. However, these stores can also carry fresh produce and other healthy options [5]

  • Initiatives focused on healthier food in retail are an evidence-based tool that the CDC uses. There are many different options, including getting healthier and more varied options into smaller existing retail options like convenience stores [6]


+ Increased Access to Grocery Stores

Many people live in neighborhoods without access to a full-service grocery stores, especially those living in low income or rural areas. Lack of access to grocery stores means relying on convenience stores which often only have nutrient poor high calorie foods available [7]

  • Increasing access to grocery stores is an effective strategy because better access to grocery stores means healthier eating. Some studies have found that people who have greater access to supermarkets or a greater abundance of healthy foods in neighborhood food stores consume more fresh produce and other healthful items. This policy addresses a serious issue since many Americans live in food desserts where “nutritious, affordable and high quality food is largely missing [8]

+ Support Farmers Markets and Farm Stands

Farmers markets are already recognized as an excellent tool to connect locally grown food to people in your community. Proximity to farmers markets is associated with increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables, lower BMI and greater connection to food systems [9]

+ Creative Use of EBT

Being able to use SNAP or EBT benefits at Farmers Markets is an excellent way to increase access to healthy foods to low income residents in your community and is a growing national movement. $24.4 million in SNAP benefits were redeemed at farmers markets across the US in 2017, a 35.2% increase from 2012.[10]

  • An example of where this type of program was used successfully in Michigan. Families that spend $20 in SNAP benefits at a farmers market can receive $20 in Double Up Food Bucks to spend on Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables. This program benefits both the health of the community, and the local economy. [11]

+ General Resources for Encouring Healthy Eating