DPH publishes municipal strategies to improve healthy food access

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As part of its “Healthy Community Design Toolkit,” the Department of Public Health has published a series of strategies that municipalities can implement to improve access to healthier food options.
 
The new chapter covers seven categories for local policy action: municipal plans, regulations and policies; land use and urban design; food business infrastructure; transportation; farmland preservation; community agriculture; and food retail.
 
The chapter, “Municipal Strategies to Increase Food Access,” offers 57 strategies and identifies which type of municipality would best benefit from the strategy, public health evidence, and examples from Massachusetts cities and towns that have adopted the strategy. Some strategies include model language for city ordinances or town bylaws.
 
Strategies include improving access to full-line grocery stores, private food cultivation, preserving farms, improving the quality of school meal offerings, and including food access in municipal plans, policies and regulations.
 
Public health advocates and governmental agencies are pointing out the significant role that food access plays in keeping people healthy, especially for those who are economically disadvantaged or don’t own cars. The lack of easy access to healthy food – especially produce – results in some residents relying on convenience stores and fast-food outlets for a large percentage of their nutrition.
 
While Massachusetts has the sixth lowest obesity rate in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no state has an obesity rate lower than 20 percent.
 
Local officials seeking technical assistance with any of the strategies in the chapter may contact their local Mass In Motion coordinator (see tinyurl.com/MassInMotionCoordinator). Cities and towns without a Mass In Motion program may contact D.J. Wilson at the MMA.
 
“Municipal Strategies to Increase Food Access” can be downloaded at www.mma.org/resources/municipal-strategies-increase-food-access.