Monday, March 15, 2010

Politics of the Plate: Illinois Residents Take Action on Obesity Today

Today is the last day to submit written testimony to the Illinois Department of Public Healthy on the Obesity Prevention Initiative Act.

Those wishing to participate in these hearings may sign in to testify at each location. Please limit oral testimony to three (3) minutes. Please provide a written copy of your testimony.

If you choose to submit testimony, the IDPH has asked that you consider the following questions:

* What are examples of effective programs and interventions to address obesity?
* What policy, program, and coordination solutions exist to address the obesity epidemic in Illinois?
* How can Illinois work more effectively to combat obesity?

Please send your testimony to with “Obesity Initiative” in the subject line. The deadline for written testimony is March 15, 2010.

The following is my letter written on behalf of Purple Asparagus.

March 15, 2010


Illinois Department of Public Health

Re: Obesity Initiative

Having attended the public hearing in Chicago on the Obesity Prevention Initiative Act, the panel has clearly been inundated with statistics about the obesity problem that plagues our city and our state. Attendees offered many cogent and insightful solutions for this persistent and devastating health crisis ranging from training health professionals to stage interventions to increasing physical activity opportunities for all Illinois residents. What was conspicuously absent were ideas for increasing access to fresh local produce.

Purple Asparagus is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to bringing families back to the table by promoting all things associated with good eating. For the past five years, we have provided nutritional education in schools, at community centers, farmers' markets, and health fairs in which we teach children and families how to incorporate fresh and seasonal produce into their diets in a joyful way.

In our experience, the parents who attend our workshops do not lack the will to combat the obesity problem that plagues their communities and families. No, instead, they lack the resources, both the money and the access to fresh, local foods.

We strongly feel that a good portion of any funding in an anti-obesity campaign should be provided to initiatives intended to increase access to good, fresh, and local food in the food deserts that are far too prevalent in our city and state. To do this, we recommend the following community based solutions:

• Replicating New York City's Green Cart program where mobile food vendors are provided licenses to sell as long as they do so in identified food deserts, preferably ones in which the vendors reside.
• Replicating the Wholesome Wave's double value program for farmers' markets that has turned out to be such a resounding success at the 61st Street Farmers' Market.
• Creating non-profit food incubators in underserved communities to develop food entrepreneurs from within the communities themselves. To correspond with this initiative, the Department of Public Health should work with Business Licensing to ensure that the regulations governing these incubators are clear.

By increasing access to good, fresh, and local foods, while increasing physical activity and nutritional education, our communities will make great strides to combating the pernicious scourge of childhood obesity.

Very truly yours,

Melissa Graham
Purple Asparagus

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