Dear Editor:

Are you resolving to eat more fruits and vegetables in 2015? While you may have your pick of apples at your local supermarket, many are limited to boxed and packaged foods on the shelves at their local corner store.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods...”. For many families in New Jersey, fresh, healthy food is not affordable or accessible.  In fact, according to the USDA, over 11% of NJ families have food insecurities and nearly 5% have very low food security. For many, the main food source is the local corner store or bodega.   Unfortunately, the majority of these stores are simply not equipped to sell fresh fruits and vegetables or other healthy choices.  Options are limited to processed foods, which are often high in sodium and trans-fat—two ingredients which can lead to an increased risk in cardiovascular disease, our nation’s No. 1 health threat.

The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association is committed to increasing access to healthy options and is partnering with several other organizations on the New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative.  This initiative connects store owners and community leaders with resources needed to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods in corner stores and bodegas throughout the state, helping communities to fresher, nutritious food options.

According to the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s State of Obesity report, NJ was one of six states that saw an increase in obesity in 2013.  While individual behaviors must change in order to combat obesity, statewide environmental and policy- changing strategies must also take effect.  Corner stores play a critical role in the health of many families in New Jersey.  By working together, we can make the healthy choice, the easy accessible choice and ultimately improve the overall health of our state.

While working on your own New Year’s resolution to eat better, I urge you to think about those families that do not have access to the same fresh and healthy ingredients many of us are privileged to.   Consider joining in this effort to build healthier communities by volunteering with the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association by calling 609.223.3720 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

In good heart-health,

James S. McKinney, MD

President, Central NJ American Heart Association | American Stroke Association Board of Directors

Medical Director, Comprehensive Stroke Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

New Brunswick, NJ