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First Annual Food Day event in Richmond promotes healthy diets

on October 31, 2015

“There’s nothing more important than healthy food,” Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said in kicking off the city’s first ever Food Day on October 24. “You are making our community healthier.”

The audience of community members, organizers, and city and county leaders cheered.

“Whether it’s about urban gardens, whether it’s about nutrition and healthy eating, whether it’s about preventative healthcare, that’s what we’re all about here,” said the mayor’s Chief of Staff Terrance Cheung, “and it takes a community.”

Food Day is a new national initiative created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It’s dedicated to teaching Americans to eat healthier foods and educating them about health issues that are preventable by eating well.

For Richmond, “This is about connecting the dots,” said Laneisha Whitfield of Urban Tilth, an urban agriculture education center that helped organize the event. Whitfield is also the program manager of Richmond Food Policy Council.

“It’s about education. You know, you go to your doctor and your doctor says, ‘You should eat healthier,’ and then what?” she said. “You need to know that we have farmers markets to help you do that, we have services where you can go to the food bank and get free food.”

Whitfield explained that the Food Day event is meant to provide people with the awareness, tools and resources to make healthy choices.

Those resources included fresh produce giveaways, information about local farmers markets from Fresh Approach, a local organization that aims to connect the public with healthy food systems, lessons about the high sugar content of popular beverages, and education about the sodium content of store-bought goods courtesy of the University of California’s Food and Nutrition Education Program.

UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa, a volunteer group dedicated to spreading horticulture practices, provided Richmond residents with herbs to take home and instructions to plant them in their yards. Residents could sign up for the Cal Fresh Food Stamp program, learn more about the Contra Costa Food Bank’s services, and take free blood sugar tests courtesy of LifeLong Medical Care.

“Preventive Health is something we really wanted to focus on as well,” said Whitfield. “Not just curing health issues that people already have but, how do we prevent these ailments through eating fresh, sustainably and locally?”

Richmond resident Kaneisha Parker, who helped advocate for the Food Policy’s campaign to put a salad bar at her daughter’s school, Peres Elementary, said, “I learned a lot about how to plant things in our community. I love that they had activities for the kids.

Xavier Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, traveled from Sacramento to speak about the high number of diabetes cases in California. His unlikely traveling companion was a 20-foot-tall inflatable shaped like a Coca-Cola can. But the inflatable advertised diabetes awareness rather than soda: the words ‘Diabetes’ adorned the can in classic red and white colors.

Morales said that over a span of ten years, as many as 140,000 Californians had amputations due to uncontrolled high blood sugar, according to California Healthline.
“I still don’t understand why we’re not in a state of emergency dealing with this issue that’s so easily preventable,” he said.

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