Access to quality foods is an important factor in safeguarding the health of individuals and communities. Improved access to healthy foods requires an assessment of the food system from the farm to the table and from food production to consumption. Our approach to food production affects not only the health of an individual and community, but also has an influence on environmental, economic, and social health.
This HERO webinar featured an agricultural economist, a local food farmer, and a school administrator.
Dr. Kevin Walker, a professor of veterinary medicine and global food safety at Michigan State University, has done extensive work in food systems and the convergence of animal and human disease. Dr. Walker holds that today Americans claim they have no time for food and described how food is changing individuals and societies. In the past, life revolved around food, whereas today, food revolves around life. He coined this shift as the grand food bargain. This unrelenting drive to produce more food has led to a nation of consumers who view cooking as optional, eat more meals outside of the home, and, unfortunately, who’ve become disconnected with the foods. Although the current food system produces more calories and sells them cheaply, this approach has led to an increased prevalence of chronic disease, food borne illness, hospitalizations, and environmental concerns.
Dr. Richard Scott, Director of Grants and Development for Waconia Public Schools, also believes we need to go back to the basics. He has played an instrumental role in re-shaping wellness not only for Waconia Public Schools, but also in a larger community health initiative known as All’s Well Waconia. Dr. Scott has teamed up with community leaders to institute policies to promote active and healthy living from infants to seniors. Dr. Scott has been spearheading the movement to use the lunchroom as a classroom, changing policies to ensure students are being fed properly, and making food fun by getting students involved from the farm to the table. He sees the value of getting young students connected to foods in a more meaningful way to promote sustainable, lifelong healthy behaviors. Not only have the policies been impactful at the school system level, they have also been influential in creating a culture of health throughout Waconia by providing the infrastructure to be active and promoting healthy eating.
Laura Dimler, Creative Director for Pampered Pumpkin in Waconia, is a passionate advocate for sustainable farming practices. With her training in social policy and real-world experience with farming, she provided a unique perspective on how food systems can influence health behaviors. She’s been leveraging her credibility as an organic farmer to help reshape nutrition habits within the community.
Many have long held there are no inherently good or bad foods. We polled the audience about whether this sentiment should be reconsidered given we’re now living in an obesogenic culture. There was overwhelming agreement (80%) that there are indeed “bad for you foods.” Our webinar panel agreed consumers need to become more engaged in learning what is actually in the foods they eat.
Because most food policy reforms limiting access to bad for you foods have been implemented in school systems, we asked the audience whether changing food policies at companies would be more or less difficult. Roughly 20% of respondents felt there would not be much of a difference, as good policy is good policy. They agreed that it just takes smart and patient execution. Over a third of the respondents, however, believed implementing food policies would be somewhat harder and another40% thought food policy changes in companies would be much more difficult as employees are adults and it would interfere with their own free will.
Our final poll question related to how limiting access to “bad for you foods” would affect employee happiness. Nearly 60% felt that a majority of employees would be happy with a food policy plan, 19% believed there would be an even split between happy and unhappy employees, and over 20% of the respondents felt that a majority of employees would be unhappy with a food policy plan.
HERO’s CEO Paul Terry hosted this webinar in partnership with the American Journal of Health Promotion. These webinars are open access and can found in the Journal’s Video Archives.