In an era dominated by political squabbling, something diff erent and refreshing is occurring in North Carolina. Political differences have been set aside by a group of politicians who want to do something about the 1.5 million North Carolinians — 20 percent of the state’s population — who lack easy access to healthy foods.
A bipartisan group of state representatives and senators have introduced legislation known as the Healthy Food Small Retailer/Corner Store Act. If passed, it will create a state-based system whereby local health departments will work with willing retail and corner-store owners to stock healthy foods such as locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, and fresh dairy products and meats. It will also provide training to help store owners better understand food safety and stocking procedures. If successful, the legislation will be a signifi cant step forward in the effort to improve healthy eating in North Carolina, and reduce obesity and poor health.
The education effort associated with the bipartisan legislation has been led by the North Carolina Alliance for Health (NCAH), which advocates for policies that promote wellness and reduce the impact of tobacco and obesity, including in children.
“Because an unhealthy diet is a leading cause of obesity, we hope that by providing citizens, and specifically children, with access to fresh fruits and vegetables, we can decrease the rate of childhood obesity and chronic disease in North Carolina,” says Pam Seamans, executive director of the NCAH.
The bipartisan legislation to improve healthy food access in underserved areas of North Carolina has been introduced in both the state House and Senate.