MPHの授業Introduction to Environmental Health Systemという授業でHealth policy communication的なEssay課題があります。
What is not enough about healthy food choices? Healthy food choices are a large part of current food education as it has some evidence to support the connection between education and outcome. However, is “healthy food choice” the right indicator of good food policies?
A concern of the emphasis on healthy food choice is that choice is costly and only for wealthy people. Some studies tried to refute this belief by showing healthy food is still affordable, however, the problem is not whether a daily cost is within certain budget. Healthy food, which doesn’t have immediate effect of not having them, often get less prioritized than other activities. Choosing wisely within a budget also involves financial literacy but that would not equally provide to and less prioritized to learn for underprivileged population. The problem is not solved just by providing healthy food choices in budget price.
An example can be seen in my local community. There is a support group which collects old food from Wholefoods and others for donation and distributes for free to low-income UC Berkeley family students. They provide quite a good amount of pastries and half-molded fruits but not so many vegetables. There are no problems on the Wholefoods’ side or the support group – they are just providing the food that is available for free at that time. However, how can no-income families motivate themselves to go to grocery stores to buy vegetables while they have a lot of bread and pastries to make their families full? Healthy food choice is not easy as choosing a whole grain bread instead of a pastry on the same shelf.
What would be the overarching theme beyond food choice? How can we address that? It is to view this problem from a wider lens – reframing it as a matter of food insecurity. Food insecurity is not only about the absolute amount of food people have. Food must be available, accessible, and utilizable, while “healthy food choice” only addresses availability from a binary point of view.
In terms of availability and accessibility, the US has good amount of community support for food in general. There are food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency food assistance, etc. in various places. However, when it comes to quality, they lack variety of foods and it is hard to find foods both healthy and tasty.
There is even more work to do on enabling people use food. In US, food utilizability is not about having refrigerator to store food healthy and utensils to cook. It is more educational piece – how to cook, how to make a meal plan for a week, how to make time to cook. As people are coming from diverse backgrounds, people have different tastes and uniform education won’t work. That’s why there are more supports for the volume of food but not much on the quality side. However, the US finished addressing those low-hanging fruits – it’s time to step into improving food education.
What to start with food education? It’s not even what to teach in class materials – just spend enough time (and respect) on lunch. Lunches in schools are reported as too short. The trend is seen nationwide as well as the local level at Berkeley. How can children think food is important when schools are forcing children to eat lunch in less than 20 minutes? Shorter lunch leads to less balanced eating habits and more food waste. Our education system is sending the wrong message to children and families.
As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. It’s time to educate ourselves on respect to foods and their effects on our bodies.