Increasing awareness of nutrition programs


This week in class we discussed federally funded nutrition programs such as SNAP, NSL, WIC, and OAA. Most of these nutrition programs are primarily targeted to low-income households, as they have higher proportions of food insecurity and nutritional risk. Before this unit I knew of quite a few nutrition programs, but there are actually quite a few I didn’t know about. As someone who has been educated in nutrition issues the fact that I didn’t even know about some of them leads me to believe that lack of knowledge of these programs is probably a big factor in why there are still many food insecure families and individuals in America today. Increasing participation means addressing a large variety of issues, such as the negative stigma of being on a social program, but raising awareness could be the push for some people to utilize these programs.

This week I would like to take the time to examine a social nutrition program that is funded by a nonprofit organization in Spokane that my friend Molly worked at in past summers. The program is called Power Up and is targeted to women and children in nutritional need. It is funded by the Women Helping Women Spokane Chapter that also fund several other social programs aimed at the community level. Here is my interview with Molly.

Question: How does Power Up work?

M: The grant provided $10,000 to help disperse produce and dairy products to women and children in need. Food pantries, which do much to reduce hunger, are usually limited to giving out canned fruit and vegetables, but this program worked to provide fresh produce and dairy products to address that nutritional gap. Power up allowed patrons of the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant (another Spokane run program) to receive a gallon of 2% milk and a specific fresh vegetable once a week.


Q: What was your role in the program?

 M: Once the program began it became apparent that several patrons didn’t know how to use these fresh vegetables that were being distributed. The staff was finding huge amounts of the raw vegetables in the trash. My role was to attempt to teach the patrons ways to use these vegetables and why they should be used. How I did this was by making pamphlets that could be given out with the produce that described how to prepare the produce and the benefits the vegetables could have on their health.


Q: Do you feel the program had positive effects?

M: I think for some people it was successful in introducing more fresh produce and dairy into their diets at home. There were still patrons who threw away the produce even with the educational material, which was disappointing. However, I think overall the program had a positive effect on the community.


This is an example of a community based programmed funded by private organizations.

There are plenty of programs like this across our nation. The federal government provides many valuable resources through their nutrition programs, but small operation, community-based programs can bring about positive change in the health status of community members as well. There are many resources available to those who are food insecure, and I believe that increasing knowledge of these resources is a step in the right direction.


Becoming an informed consumer

Companies that produce food products have one main goal: to make a profit by marketing to their consumer base. Companies have realized that many consumers today are actually trying to make an effort to choose healthier foods, and consequently have marketed to that consumer in a variety of ways. I am a big fan of labeling foods so that the consumer can be aware of exactly what they are putting in their bodies; however, there are some labels that can be misleading if people aren’t critical of the labels. For example, the label “0 grams trans fat!” can lure a consumer into believing the food is a healthier food choice. While avoiding trans fat is obviously a good idea, this product could be chalk full of saturated fat or total fat, making it not really a healthy choice after all. To be intelligent, informed consumers we must look past the front labeling that is there for the sole purpose of enticing us to open our wallets. There are strict regulations from the FDA regarding the disclosure of the ingredients and nutrition content on the nutrition label. So before falling for the alluring, healthier-sounding food choice, be sure to actually look at the nutrition label. Then you will find out if those tempting “natural” tortilla chips with 0 grams trans fat are actually a better choice. As with most things, taking the time and initiative to be informed is a much better and more reliable choice than relying on marketing schemes.

Another point consumers should be aware of is labels such as “natural” don’t necessarily mean what they appear to. There isn’t a formal definition of ‘natural’ enforced by the FDA, as long as the food does not contain synthetic substances, added color, or artificial flavor they do not object to the label. While it is beneficial to know your food doesn’t contain any synthetic substances, should be noted that the label “natural” does not imply that it is organic or grown locally or anything else. (However, meat and poultry are regulated under the USDA so they have different requirements.) The term “certified organic” is strictly regulated and can only be applied to food that was grown on a farm that has been pesticide and herbicide free for at least three years. Certified organic means the food was made without genetic engineering (GMOs), irradiation, hormones, antibiotics, or herbicides and pesticides. The label indicates that at least 95% of the product is organic, and there is a 100% organic label as well. So if consumers want to buy products that are as ‘natural’ as possible, they should stick to certified organic foods instead of “natural” product

As a consumer it is your responsibility to understand what you are buying and consuming. It is very easy to fall into marketing schemes by companies that want you to believe their product is ‘healthy.’ It is your job to take the few easy steps, such as reading the nutrition label, to consciously choose foods that are more nutritious.





Post 5: Soda Tax

In the past several years soda (sugar-sweetened beverages) taxes have been implemented in a variety of cities and states in order to help combat our obesity epidemic. The tactic is similar to the relatively successful strategy of using increased taxes to curb smoking and tobacco use. Some of the revenue generated from the tobacco tax was then used for educational material that discouraged the use of tobacco because of its health consequences. There are obviously still smokers today, but there are significantly less than 30 years ago. A soda tax could work in the same way. A 1-2 cent tax on each ounce of sugar sweetened beverage could create revenue that could then be used to implement more educational programs as well as counteract the toll the obesity epidemic has cost our health system. Of course a soda tax like this wouldn’t solve the problem; it is much too complex for that. However, it could be a step toward improvement. I honestly don’t think it will stop all that many people from drinking soda, but possibly the revenue it created could be a catalyst for change. On the other hand, taxes such as this disproportionally affect low-income households. One study (linked below) by Roland Sturm, et al., found that low taxes (around 4%) did not have a substantial effect on soda consumption. However, a few subgroups including at-risk overweight children coming from low income families did appear to be more sensitive than others to soda taxes (1). This was especially true when soda was available at school. So a small soda tax could affect the behavior of at least a few subgroups of the population. I personally have an issue with the thought of using taxes to try to force behavior change. In an ideal world, as long as accurate nutritional information is available and everyone has the access to healthy choices they should have the freedom to make their own consumption choices. However, in this complicated world, people whose choose lifestyles that cause serious health problems do not just affect themselves, they affect the entire health system. So as much as I don’t like the idea of using taxes as a tool for behavior change, a soda tax could at least bring in funding for a variety of programs that could help improve the health of our health system, such as nutrition education programs, increasing access to healthy options in food deserts, or offsetting costs of obesity on the health system.–media/videos–multimedia/