Health-- especially with a focus on childhood health-- is another thriving component of the food movement that I have yet to mention.
My primary link into this emerging expression of the food movement is Jan Daly who works with the Leon County Health Department. I put in a garden at Jan's house last December. While digging in the dirt together, we share our dreams of community gardens, widespread access to fresh, affordable food. Somewhere amidst the conversation, she told me about her participation with HEAT, Health Equity Alliance of Tallahassee.
HEAT, co-founded by Miaisha Michell (with the Greater Frenchtown Governors Revitalization Council) and Lance Gravlee (Medical Anthropologist from the University of Florida) is interested in the distribution of health in Tallahassee. Which communities are the most healthy? Which the least? From that starting point, they're looking at why some communities are less healthy than others. Is it medical care? Stress? Economics? Access to healthy food? This is the point at which the food council comes in.
The Food Council, acting under the auspices of HEAT is drawing together the health care community, including health departments as well as organizations and institutions working on childhood obesity and diabetes in addition to community and school garden folks like the Damayan Garden Project. There are more collaborators; that's who I remember for the moment.
I attended a Food Council meeting in the middle of February. Mark Tancig, board member of Damayan presented on best practices of Food Policy Councils from around the country, highlighting the work being done in Atlanta and Vancouver. After Mark's piece, I presented on some of the best food access/community gardening practices around Tallahassee and the greater Southeast. At the next meeting, the Council will decide how to move forward with additional research about food access and what steps the Council should undertake and advocate to make healthy, affordable food within reach of the entire Tallahassee population. And note, their inspiration is coming primarily from health-- especially childhood health.
One last piece that I'll share with you at this point:
Today I attended a community meeting hosted by the Blue Foundation. It's part of their $8 Million Initiative to Address Childhood Obesity. Their aim is to build off of local successes and programs to address the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. Closely tied in with obesity is childhood diabetes, or Type 2 Diabetes which recently had to be renamed from "Adult Onset Diabetes" because so many children were contracting the disease. Present at the meeting were all kinds of folks from health departments, the Department of Transportation which is looking at walkability and bike lanes, nonprofit activists, disability nonprofit employees, volunteer organizations, university professors and programmatic representatives, as well as day-care/Head Start directors, etc. Every break-out session that I heard about talked about the importance of growing food, community gardens, farmers' markets, etc.
This is an important segment of the food movement. Their work, my work, our work... is healthier kids, healthier communities via good food and physical activity.