By: Bessie O'Connor, RDN
In September, for the first time in over 50 years, The White House convened a Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health (WHC) and released a National Strategy (NS) that lays out a “transformational vision for ending hunger and reducing diet-related disease by 2030 – all while closing disparities among the communities impacted most”.1 The NS encourages a whole of government and society approach and outlines five pillars that provide an actionable path to achieve nutrition security goals in the United States. Now is time to take action together.
Over two years ago Dairy Council of California launched the Let’s Eat Healthy (LEH) Initiative and created a strategic framework to prioritize collaboration and outline action steps to collectively improve access to nutritious foods and nutrition education. The LEH strategic framework aligns closely with three NS pillars and can catalyze a community approach to address nutrition security.
Pillar 1: Improve Food Access and Affordability
The NS encourages states and school districts to increase investment in school food programs that include training for school nutrition professionals. LEH is committed to providing professional development opportunities for school food service professionals that elevate the role of nutrition programs on childhood health. LEH also supports local school wellness by advocating to strengthen nutrition policies and guidelines, so schools have the resources and supports to increase nutrition education in addition to food access. Lastly, this year LEH launched a grant program to support innovative community projects that advance nutrition security.
Pillar 2: Integrate Nutrition and Health
Evidence consistently shows that a healthy eating pattern, which includes milk and dairy foods, is associated with beneficial outcomes for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, bone health and certain types of cancer. 2 LEH commits to providing evidence-based nutrition education, that is inclusive of all food groups, as part of a larger systems approach to health, delivered through schools, health centers and communities, so that everyone has access to nutrition information that supports lifelong health.
Pillar 3: Empower all Consumers to Make and Have Access to Healthy Choices
The NS addresses plans to develop a front-of-package labeling system to quickly and easily communicate nutrition information and influence healthier food choices. The strategy also proposes updating nutrition standards that determine when the term “healthy” can be used on a product label. To make these strategies successful a whole of society approach is necessary alongside the environmental support of front of package and “healthy” food labeling. New food labeling efforts will require nutrition education at the local level to ensure nutritious food choices that include dairy, fruits and vegetables are elevated and not overshadowed by “healthy” labels. When supported by policy, systems, and environmental interventions, nutrition education is a tool to help people choose foods that support their health and well-being.
With the momentum of the WHC, NS and LEH we can make an impact, join the Let's Eat Healthy Initiative and let’s work together to achieve community health and nutrition goals!
Bessie O'Connor, RDN
Bessie O'Connor, RDN
Bessie is a practicing Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and the Community Nutrition Adviser for California’s Central Coast region.
In today's society, it's vital to engage teenagers in experiential nutrition education to guide them toward making nutritious food choices.
The Let’s Eat Healthy Community Grant program provides community health organizations funding to enhance programs within their communities.