Save the Children Asks, “How Do You Choose Your Plate In a Food Desert?”

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Jennifer Kaleba, (O) 202-640-6613, (M) 202-258-8842

WESTPORT, Conn. (June 10, 2011)Last week, the USDA launched its replacement to the iconic food pyramid with ChooseMyPlate.gov—an easy-to-understand guide for how your plate should look with the balanced portions of fresh, healthy protein, grains, fruit, vegetables and dairy. It notes that “half your plate” should be filled with fruits and vegetables.

At Save the Children, where our U.S. Programs serve some of the most vulnerable kids in America, we couldn’t agree more. But we also know, first-hand, that in the rural, low-income communities where we work, “half your plate” is taken up with unhealthy, cheaper and easily accessible junk foods. Across the country, 3.6-million kids are stuck with a plate that looks nothing like the USDA’s recommendation.

In Cibola, New Mexico, where we offer programs including physical activity and nutrition, 98.5 percent of the population is low-income and lives without access to healthy, fresh food. They live in what the USDA calls a “food desert.

In food deserts*—swaths of the country where low-income families live too far from supermarkets or grocery stores to access fresh, healthy food—choosing your plate leaves you no choice at all.  To make matters worse, standing in for supermarkets in low-income communities are convenience stores that offer processed, packaged food rich in fat, sugar, salt and preservatives…and little else.

Save the Children’s U.S. Programs works in schools giving kids healthy snacks, introducing them to fruits and vegetables they may be unable to access in their homes. The children in our CHANGE program learn the value—and fun—of eating well and being physically active. In our Early Steps to School Success, our program educates parents on the tremendous developmental importance of a healthy diet for their infants and toddlers. And across the country, we are asking legislators to change and improve policies to give kids the quality food they need to thrive.

Learn more about our nutrition program here, as well our Robert Wood Johnson Foundation partnership, Campaign for Healthy Kids, at  www.campaignforhealthykids.org.

In the food deserts of America, the plate kids should have is not the plate kids can get:

  • Nationally, 3.6 million kids live in areas affected by low access to fresh, healthy food.
  • In the just the communities Save the Children’s U.S. Programs serves, there are nearly 200,000 children who do not have adequate access to fresh, healthy food.
  • Roughly a third of the U.S. communities Save the Children serves are classified as food deserts. And in those communities, on average, 59 percent of the population does not have access to fresh, healthy foods. In some communities, it’s as much as 98 percent.

* A 2011 USDA study defines a food desert as a “low-income census tract” where at least 33 percent of the population lives more than 1 (urban) or 10 (rural) miles away from a supermarket or large grocery store.

About Save the Children’s U.S. Programs

Save the Children works to break the cycle of poverty and improve the lives of children by ensuring they have the resources they need—access to a quality education, healthy foods and opportunities to grow and develop in a nurturing environment. When disasters like hurricanes and wildfires strike, Save the Children is among the first on the ground ensuring the needs of children are being met.
Save the Children’s early childhood education, literacy, physical activity and nutrition, and emergency response programs reached more than 78,000 children in the United States last year alone. For more information visit www.savethechildren.org/usa.
 

Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.