AHA Healthy Food Access Day draws advocates from across the state

American Heart Association volunteers and healthy food advocates from across the state converged on Lansing today to talk to lawmakers about the importance of eating healthy and the need to expand healthy food access to urban and rural communities statewide.

“We’re proud of our hard working and dedicated volunteers and advocates for rallying around the need to expand healthy food access and ensure their local lawmakers understand the importance of a healthy diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables,” said David Hodgkins, government relations director for the American Heart Association. “When healthy, nutritious foods are readily available, adults and children develop better eating habits and better overall health.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1.8 million people in Michigan, including hundreds of thousands of children, have inadequate access to healthy foods.

“It was an honor to be a voice for the 300,000 children and their families across Michigan that live too far from a large grocery store to regularly enjoy that first bite of a crisp apple or the crunch of a carrot,” said K.C. Sanders, AHA Advocacy Committee member and volunteer. “I urge lawmakers in the Michigan House and Senate to support funding to help small corner stores expand and offer fruits and vegetables where they are needed most.”

Currently, lawmakers are weighing House Bill 4207, sponsored by State Representative Andy Schor, D-Lansing. The legislation would open up existing state funding to incentivize new groceries, or redevelopment of existing groceries, in rural and urban areas of the state to expand their fresh food offerings.

“People living in and near commercial areas and downtowns expect grocery options. They expect walkability, and access to healthy foods. HB 4207 will increase accessibility and add more healthy food close to where people live,” said Schor.

HB 4207 recently passed the House Commerce and Trade Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support and now awaits a vote on the House floor. The legislature is also weighing adding funding in the state budget to fund healthy food expansion.

Researchers have found that people who don’t have access to fresh food have an increased risk of developing early heart disease. Living within one mile of a store selling fruits and vegetables greatly reduces or slows the progression of calcium buildup in the heart’s arteries.

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