Friday, June 17, 2011

7 Ways to Make Your Neighborhood Healthier

The people you hang out with affect your income, your success and your health.
And if you don't live in Washington D.C. or San Francisco or one of those other "Fittest Cities?" Try one of these strategies to improve the health of your own community, I bet other folks join you.

1. Rethink the bake sale. Though school lunches have gotten healthier over the last few years, foods sold in vending machines, at fundraisers and at school events like sports matches haven’t. Research has found that the unhealthy food available at these places contributes to childhood obesity. Offer to host a healthy-foods fundraiser (fruit kebabs, veggies and dip) or work with the parent group that runs food sales at events to find healthy alternatives. For more tips, click here.

2. Start a neighborhood walking group. Ask friends on your block to join you, then reach out to others. The camaraderie will keep you committed, and the sense of belonging to a group is a great health bonus. For a how-to-start video from the AARP, click here.
3. Organize a “walking school bus.” If your child’s school is within reasonable walking distance, volunteer to escort the kids on foot. Arrange with other parents along the way to pick up their kids at a set time and place. Click here for a step-by-step guide. Also check out the National Center for Safe Routes to School (, which helps parents, communities and schools develop safe and effective ways to get more kids (including those with disabilities) walking or riding bikes to school.
4. Turn the office “doughnut day” into fruit day. Instead of bringing in baked goods to “treat” everyone, pick one day a week on which everyone brings in a different fruit. Research shows that eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is the best way to get disease-fighting antioxidants.
5. Connect your school with local farmers. Start by contacting local farms or farmers’ market managers and talk to the principal and head of food services at your school to see if a program might be feasible. Then put together a “Farm to School” meeting. You can get meeting materials, including a sample agenda, from the National Farm to School Network. There are also companies like Revolution Foods that provide healthy meals and nutrition education to schools; talk to school officials about them.

6. Bring health mentors into your high school. An organization called HealthCorps trains young adults and places them in high schools to help kids incorporate healthy habits into their lives. They teach a hands-on HealthCorps curriculum, which includes showing kids how to make healthy food choices and get enough physical activity. The mentors also work with school officials and students to make healthy changes in the community—such as creating school gardens, starting local farmers’ markets, bringing healthier food to school vending machines, and more.
7. Start a community garden. Gardening is not only great exercise, it also encourages residents to incorporate the healthy herbs, fruit and vegetables they’re growing into their diets. Find ideas on how to get started by visiting the American Community Gardening Association’s website.
via Woman's Day; July 1, 2011