Did you make a food-related New Year's resolution a few months ago? After a holiday season stuffed with rich food and sweet drinks, the guilt set in and a healthy resolution seemed like the only cure. As you continue to challenge yourself to improve your health in 2017, the Williamsburg Health Foundation proposes you also resolve to help make everyone in your hometown healthier.
How do you decide what to eat? As a child, perhaps your parents expected you to finish your plate. But as an adult, you have total control over your diet, right? Not exactly. You might know what to eat (seasonal fruits and vegetables, lean meat and whole grains) and what not to eat (sugar, sugar, sugar). But can you afford it? And, what if there's nowhere to get it?
Access to healthy food is a major social determinant of health – a circumstance of life that makes it easier or harder to be healthy. If you can't afford a car and the nearest grocery store is far away (1/2 mile in urban areas, 10 miles in rural), you live in a "food desert." Convenience stores and fast food restaurants are usually the only places left to buy food. A diet reliant on either can devastate your health: diabetes and obesity are often consequences of life in a food desert. The concept may seem distant, but there are food deserts here in Greater Williamsburg.
You can help provide your neighbors in need with the healthy food necessary for a healthy life. While you want to help alleviate hunger, don't focus on bulk: focus on health. Given America's epidemics of high blood pressure and obesity, think carefully about what food you donate.
Choose whole grains for maximum nutritional value. Donate soups and stews that are low in salt. Donate plain oatmeal, not sugary cereals. Skip donating sodas, sports drinks, and even fruit juices entirely. Canned fruit and fruit cups provide the most nourishment when fruit is in its own juice instead of syrup. Consider protein packed in water like tuna, salmon and chicken. Unsalted nuts and 100% peanut butter are good choices, too.
All the local food pantries need your contributions of time, food, and money to improve our community's health. To learn how to help FISH, Inc., visit their website at www.williamsburgfish.weebly.com or call (757) 220-9379. Grove Christian Outreach Center can be reached at (757) 887-1100 or online at www.groveoutreach.com – they have programs donating food to children over school breaks. The Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, whose Mobile Food Pantry delivers fresh produce and lean meat, is online at www.hrfoodbank.org, and their office phone number is (757) 596-7188.
If you or someone you know needs assistance with food or other basic needs, contact the United Way of Greater Williamsburg's Community Resource Center at (757) 229-2222. United Way can help them find a food resource.
Goad works at the Williamsburg Health Foundation. The Foundation works to improve the health of those in the Greater Williamsburg area through financial and educational support.