National Healthy Eating Day is Wednesday. An initiative of the American Heart Association, Healthy Eating Day was designed to raise awareness about the importance of making healthy food choices.

Much has been written and communicated about the role of healthy eating to overall health. Initiatives to improve health include strategies that increase residents’ access to healthy, nutritious, affordable food options.

Among them is the Broome County Health Department’s Comprehensive Cancer Prevention Program (CCPP). More than 100,000 cancers are linked to conditions of excess body fat, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). Government statistics indicate that approximately two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are overweight or obese.

The Comprehensive Cancer Prevention Program aims to reduce rates of cancer by promoting the adoption of healthy food and beverage procurement standards among entities providing high-volume food service. Also central to the program’s objectives is lowering health care costs and promoting local food systems.

Several entities in our community have joined this initiative, including Broome County Central Foods; Meals on Wheels of Western Broome; the YMCA of Broome County; the Broome County Council of Churches’ Community Food Bus; and All Saints and Seton Catholic High School.

By finding or developing healthy alternatives that are cost-efficient, including food products, recipes and ways to enhance taste, CCPP partners are incorporating more nutritious foods into menus. The improvements made to date, such as increasing the nutritional value of menu items for priority populations, are encouraging, and we anticipate more improvements in the future.

It is important to expand participation. Individuals and families, as well as the organizational leadership from all sectors of our community need to be involved.

Broome County is not on this journey alone. Communities across the country are working to improve health and wellness among residents.

Healthy food and beverage choices must exist where we eat and where we shop — at home, in the workplace, in our day care facilities, in our schools, in other community institutions. Anyone responsible for procuring, providing or planning food and beverages in an organization/workplace — from vending machines to catered special events — can easily learn how to and make healthy changes.

At the heart of the initiative is the goal of helping organizations improve their food environment. Any progress is good progress; small steps add up quickly and can have a big impact. The investment of time and effort is well worth it.

Cancer is costly! Its economic burden exceeds that of any other disease. It is estimated that during 2015, half a million Americans will lose their lives to cancer, and three times that many will be diagnosed with it.

Efforts such as the CCPP have improved food choices in our community and in our homes, reducing the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Incorporating health into nutritional procurement policies is a step that will result in better health outcomes for the entire community.

I commend the CCPP partnership; please get involved by calling them at (607) 778-3929. Make every day a healthy eating day and help create a healthier Broome County.

Victoria Giarratano is the executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension Broome County.

To see the full article, go to:  http://www.pressconnects.com/story/opinion/2015/11/03/guest-viewpoint-healthy-food-choices/75084760/


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