Community and religious leaders convened to encourage healthier lifestyle, food and food access changes for all on National Eating Healthy Day--learn more here.
Every year on National Eating Healthy Day, the American Heart Association encourages all Americans to commit to healthier eating with a goal of lowering risks for heart disease and stroke. However, not all communities have access to healthy and nutritious food. More than 3.4 million Texans lack adequate access to grocery stores, forcing many to rely on packaged foods, fast food, and other heavily processed foods that contribute to higher rates of obesity and diet-related diseases. The Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Team led National Eating Healthy Day Prayer Breakfasts in Dallas, Houston, and the Rio Grande Valley to raise awareness of this issue and convened community leaders and advocates to discuss how to help solve this problem in their communities and statewide.
Here are some highlights from each of the prayer breakfasts:
- The event was held at the Baylor Scott & White Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute in South Dallas, and attended by nearly 70 people. This National Eating Healthy Day Prayer Breakfast provided a forum for Dallas area faith leaders, non-profit organizations, and health care professionals to discuss food access policy from the economic, faith, health, and equity perspectives. “The kingdom of God is made manifest in the meeting of one another's needs. Sadly, in our world, many people are hungry. Many lack access to healthy food, and often that is tied to income, where they live, the color of their skin. That is not how God intended our world to be. It is a manifestation of injustice. Of brokenness. But when we act to correct this fundamental wrongness, we make heaven manifest where hell was flourishing. We choose the Kingdom of God over the brokenness man has created. And what Jesus promises is that he is in that process, and that work will be completed,” said Pastor Wes Helm, Associate Pastor, Springcreek Church.
- Dr. Donald Wesson, President, Baylor Scott & White Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute, served as the keynote speaker at the prayer breakfast. Dr. Wesson underscored the relationship between access to healthy food and population health conditions. According to Dr. Wesson, “We need to view grocery access through a lens of health. It’s not just about poverty…improving access to healthy food will require engagement of government officials in discussions about hunger, health, structure, and policy.”
- The Houston Prayer Breakfast was held at Fountain of Praise in Houston, TX.
- State Representative Dr. Alma Allen spoke of the great work that is being done in the community, but challenged the audience to get involved in food access. As a long-time educator she spoke to the importance of raising children in healthy environments inside and outside of school. She also reminded the audience that not everyone has the ability to drive across town in search of a healthy meal, and that some families are simply concerned with securing their next meal.
- Dr. Jasmine Opusunju spoke to CAN DO Houston’s work on the local level related to Healthy Corner Stores and spoke to the importance of building collective power, so that more families and communities can have adequate access to healthy food. Emphasizing that, together, we can help families overcome the barriers of accessibility and affordability in order to live longer, healthier lives.
- The audience was also invited to consider joining the Texas Grocery Access Task Force and to sign an apple petition card.
Rio Grande Valley
- With a strong culture focused on traditions of food and family in the Rio Grande Valley, the advocates gathered for discussion at Texas A&M Health Science Center in McAllen on November 2nd reflected on this challenge and networked with other community leaders and organizations addressing healthy food access in the Rio Grande Valley.
- Faith leaders shared personal reflections and led prayers focused on the importance of healthy food access, for the audience of 70 community members. Dr. Art Cavazos, Superintendent of Harlingen CISD, delivered a compelling address on why healthy food access is so critical to the future generations of the Valley, and what he is leading in Harlingen to stem the tide of obesity amongst students and parents. Several public health leaders in the community participated in a panel to illuminate how breakfast attendees could contribute to the work going on to address this issue. Following the event, a group of advocates, including a nurse from Methodist Healthcare Ministries in McAllen and several Working on Wellness Coalition student members from Weslaco High School, met with local Texas lawmakers on the issue of policies to increase healthy food access during the 85th Legislative Session.
- “Everything we do in this world has a direct effect on us, and the generations to come… We know our actions come from the heart… That is also true of the physical heart... If our physical heart isn’t healthy, can we go around and help others? We can’t… there is nothing we can do,” said Imam Noor Ahmad.