I almost never eat fast food. I say “almost” because there is one exception to my rule: road trips. After upwards of 3 hours on the highway my tummy starts to rumble. The rumbling coupled with the agony of knowing I’m not even half way there inevitably leads to some very poor nutritional choices. I’ll pull over for a quick bite to eat at any number of fast food dining establishments. If I’m really in a hurry or daylight driving hours are quickly escaping me, I’ll go straight for the drive thru. After inhaling my burger and fries (which, by the way, is never as good as I initially imagined) I’m ready to get back on the road. With a junior frosty in hand, I continue to make my way toward my final destination.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with this scenario, or have your own Achilles heel of an environment that breaks a healthy eating streak. For some people, it’s a family get together. For others, it’s a late night out. For me, it’s driving East on I-64 where I go for the quickest, cheapest, and easiest choice. But, the biggest reason I choose fast food isn’t because it’s quick, cheap or easy. Between Charleston and Huntington, West Virginia, fast food is the only choice I have to make.
Back home I’m lucky enough to live in an area of Louisville ripe with farmers markets, grocery stores, and delicious independent restaurants. When it comes to eating, I have access to a wide array of choices. Even when I’m in a hurry or don’t have a lot of money to spend, I can find ways to eat healthy. I know from my work at Y however, that not all Louisvillians share in this luxury. 12 neighborhoods located directly east of downtown and through much of West Louisville are considered food deserts, or areas with severely limited access to fresh and affordable food. The problem is compounded further due to low access to automobile transportation. It just so happens that residents of Louisville’s food deserts suffer disproportionately high rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardiac disease. Studies throughout much of the country have linked access to healthy food directly to health outcomes. While environment only limits my ability to make healthy choices a couple of times a year, for others the problem is far more systemic.
The Healthy in a Hurry Corner Store Initiative aims to address this issue by helping existing corner stores get set up to sell fresh fruits and vegetables. The program, which is funded through a federal grant, is a low cost way to change the food desert environment to one in which people have the choice to eat healthy. An equally important step, of course, is education. Changing habits is hard enough, but habits which have now been carried through generations resulting in a loss of cultural knowledge on how to even prepare and cook healthy food, well that’s really really really hard. I’m proud to say we’re working on it though, and I’m also proud to say that I plan on skipping the frosty next time.
Check out http://www.ymcalouisville.org/social-responsibility/social-services/healthy-in-a-hurry-corner-stores.html for more information.