What surrounds us shapes us, and in Los Angeles there are often barriers that make healthy choices the difficult choices. To address obesity, we must ensure that every neighborhood, school and workplace has access to affordable, healthy foods and beverages produced in a sustainable way. RENEW LA County and the Los Angeles Food Policy Council celebrated Food Day on October 24, 2011, but the principles of Food Day can continue throughout the year.
5 Ways to Get Involved
1) Eat Real, Los Angeles
ReThink Your Drink: Eating too much sugar is a major contributor to overweight and obesity, especially for LA County’s children. Sugar-loaded drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and even sweetened teas and fruit juices, are a large part of the problem. Did you know that a 20-ounce soda can contain 65 grams of sugar? That’s approximately 22 packs of sugar in just one bottle. All that added sugar can have serious health consequences. The extra calories in sugar-loaded drinks may lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It’s recommended to limit or eliminate sweetened beverages from your diet, replacing sugar-loaded drinks with water, unsweetened beverages and low-fat or non-fat milk.
Try Meatless Mondays: During World War I and II, the FDA encouraged voluntary rationing by asking families to reduce their consumption of key staples such as meat to support U.S. troops. This effort was restarted in the early 2000s to fight our own war to protect our health and improve the environment. Going meatless once a week may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. Try going meatless on Mondays to make a change for your health and the health of our planet!
2) Support Local Farmers
Go local: Shop at your local farmers market to purchase produce grown in California. It’s good for the economy and the environment. Food in the U.S. typically travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate. In comparison, food at a farmers market typically travels less than 100 miles. Fruits and vegetables are often picked the same day they are sold – a difference that you can taste. There are nearly 100 farmers markets throughout LA County. Find a local farmers market here.
Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm: By joining a CSA, you are supporting your local food system. You can sign up to receive a box full of fresh fruits, vegetables, honey, jams and other novelties without having to go to a farmers market. Because you will receive only fruits and vegetables that are in season, it will encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and eat a variety of produce that you may have never tried before like Swiss chard, kale and pluots! Visit Local Harvest for more information.
3) Transform Your Community
Volunteer at a food bank: More than 400,000 children in Los Angeles face hunger, which affects their ability to learn and perform well in school. There are many different ways you can get involved, whether it is by donating funds, holding food drives or volunteering to assemble food packages. Contact the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to find out how you can play a role in fighting hunger.
Sign up for a “fruit pick”: Join the Los Angeles gleaning movement to fight hunger by harvesting locally grown food from private homes and public spaces. The fruits that are picked are then distributed to local food pantries and organizations serving those in need. Contact Food Forward for its schedule.
Build a community garden: There are approximately 70 community gardens in LA County serving almost 4,000 families. Community gardens are cooperative organizations that build neighborhood self-reliance and help reduce poverty. Contact LA Garden Council to build your own community garden, or make a donation to support its mission of connecting people with community garden space in their neighborhoods.
4) Gather Friends & Family
Plan a potluck: Challenge your family and friends to bring a dish that features local food, whether it is from their own garden or something they bought from a farmers market.
Host a food film screening or a book club: Learn about our changing food system by watching a recent documentary or reading a book on how food is grown and consumed in the U.S. Check out films such as “Food, Inc.,” “Future of Food,” “King Corn,” “SuperSize Me” or “Food Fight” and books “In Defense of Food,” “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” “Food Rules,” “Fast Food Nation,” or “Food Politics.”
5) Get Active!
Turn off the TV: Children are bombarded with advertisements that encourage them to eat unhealthy foods and beverages through more than 40,000 commercials they see each year. In addition, time spent watching TV means less time for physical activity. There are many places throughout Los Angeles to get active, including your local park. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day, and children need at least 60 minutes a day.
Get growing: By planting a vegetable or herb garden, you can improve your health and even save money. Whether you have a large backyard or a small patio, you can grow your own vegetables or herbs. Gardening for an hour can even burn 250-300 calories. Get involved in the Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative, which helps new gardeners start their own gardens quickly and easily in a container, in the backyard or at a community garden. For gardening tips and free classes on how to garden, click here.