National Nutrition Month: A Lifelong Impact

This is National Nutrition Month, which the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics created to focus on the “importance of informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical acidity habits."

While we are closing out National Nutrition Month, the subject of food — having enough food that offers nutritional value and access to it —should be on everyone’s mind, not just during this month but throughout the year.

Just a simple confirmation: There is agreement among all experts who study the subject of nutrition that a proper diet should lead to a longer and healthier life. Everything that I and my fellow legislators do springs from that basic premise. And in our review of this issue, I have introduced two important bills that demonstrate a sensible approach to ensuring that people understand how to make wise food choices that coincide with access to stores that provide those options.

The problem of having enough to eat and appropriate food choices is a significant issue. More than “800,000 of our New Jersey neighbors struggle to put nutritious food on the table consistently, and the number will only grow unless we take coordinated action,” said Carlos M. Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Community Foodbank of New Jersey in a news interview.

The first step to addressing this issue is a public service campaign that would educate consumers regarding the awareness of food waste. I am proposing legislation, Senate Bill No. 3231, which would create a public awareness campaign, under the Department of Agriculture, to “educate the public about food waste prevention” that provides the public with practical information that helps them to be more conscious of food management. This could range from creating a shopping list to educating consumers about the range of date stamps on certain packaged food products that include “use by,” “sell by,” and “best by.”

This might seem like a minor issue, but it is not. When the public understands the value of date packaging, for example, consumers are less likely to throw away food. Educating consumers serves as a way to create minor triggers that could help people avoid eating or throwing away food unnecessarily.

The more informed the public is about food issues, the more likely they are to be knowledgeable and prudent consumers.
The next logical step in conjunction with the educational campaign is access. If you know what foods are good for you, how to shop wisely and practice responsible food selection, you must have access to those stores.

My other bill, Senate Bill No. 3233, addresses a problem that amounts to a logistics issue for certain urban areas that some refer to as “food deserts.” This applies to communities where “residents are unable to obtain reasonable and adequate access to nutritious foods,” especially fruits and vegetables. I believe that if we incentivize supermarkets and grocery stores with tax credits for a “newly open” store in these urban food desert communities, we can help fertilize the area with businesses offering healthy food choices.

Both bills are important, yet they might not have the urgency that inflames other issues because it has a low-voltage impact. That means you’re not aware of the potential harm or damage you’ve done because of an unhealthy diet until it manifests itself only after physical symptoms or a doctor’s visit. Yet, we will all confront health issues related to our diet at some point in our lives. My bills provide information, education and help to create a business climate that could encourage companies to locate in these “food deserts.” That’s good for the businesses and residents too.

In the end, when it comes to food, it is your choice. And I hope that it is a healthy choice.

That’s my take, what’s yours?

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