Health of Worcester 2011

Worcester’s Commissioner of Public Health has been working on a new report – “The Health of Worcester 2011”.  The report presentation that Dr. Magee has giving to various groups in the City uses striking visual representations of local and state data to highlight the public health issues Worcester faces.  What rises to the top? The three primary causes of premature death in Worcester are obesity, smoking, and opiate overdose.

The report showed 27 percent of adults in Worcester are obese, and another 35 percent are overweight. The number of obese children entering the city’s schools has doubled nationally to 10 percent over the past 30 years; in the city that number exceeds 18 percent, the report said. One in five city high school students is obese, the report said, with the percentage even higher among Hispanics and low-income.

Adults in the city are also dealing with diabetes and cholesterol issues. Cardiovascular disease is the city’s number two cause of premature death. Public health officials here want to decrease obesity and people being overweight by 5 percent in five years.

The Commissioner highlights large portion size, high consumption of fast food, and poor cooking and buying habits as the culprit of this extreme increase in overweight and obesity.   While these are of course true, its also important to look at the way our environment, policies and media influence peoples general food habits.  Strategies that address individual behaviors as well as our food environments and policies are most important.  Addressing one without the other will not solve the many diet-related problems our country faces.  Obesity, hunger, and diet-related disease (among many other issues) are all just symptoms of a very broken national and international food system.

The Commissioner has given the presentation to City Council, the Food & Active Living Policy Council, the City Manager, and will continue to present the information to relevant groups and organizations that can help work together to combat the obesity issue here in Worcester.

Read the article that ran in the T&G on August 16th.

The full Health of Worcester report is available at www.worcesterma.gov in the Health & Safety section.
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Food Sovereignty and Food Safety

When I think of Food Safety I think of the peanut butter recall, the spinach recall, the beef recalls, and all the salmonella and ecoli that have made its way into huge amounts of mass produced food that was shipped and sold all over the country.  I think of industrial farms and factories. 

And when I think of Food Sovereignty, I think “common sense”.  Of course citizens should be able to control the food we purchase and eat.  We should know what’s in it and where it comes from. 

A small town in Maine has just made the connections through passing a Local Food ordinance that protects small farmers and small producers – what they call “cottage producers” that make and sell products from their own kitchens.  Its an incredibly exciting step for those that want to see our food and our economies re-localized.  The press release that came across my desk this morning is pasted below with links to read the full ordinance as passed. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 2011
MAINE TOWN PASSES LANDMARK LOCAL FOOD ORDINANCE
Sedgwick becomes first town in Maine to adopt protections
SEDGWICK, MAINE – On Saturday, March 5, residents of a small coastal town in Maine voted unanimously to adopt the Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance, setting a precedent for other towns looking to preserve small-scale farming and food processing. Sedgwick, located on the Blue Hill Peninsula in Western Hancock County, became the first town in Maine, and perhaps the nation, to exempt direct farm sales from state and federal licensing and inspection. The ordinance also exempts foods made in the home kitchen, similar to the Michigan Cottage Food Law passed last year, but without caps on gross sales or restrictions on types of exempt foods.
Local farmer Bob St.Peter noted the importance of this ordinance for beginning farmers and cottage producers. “This ordinance creates favorable conditions for beginning farmers and cottage-scale food processors to try out new products, and to make the most of each season’s bounty,” said St.Peter. “My family is already working on some ideas we can do from home to help pay the bills and get our farm going.”
Mia Strong, Sedgwick resident and local farm patron, was overwhelmed by the support of her town. “Tears of joy welled in my eyes as my town voted to adopt this ordinance,” said Strong. “I am so proud of my community. They made a stand for local food and our fundamental rights as citizens to choose that food.”
St.Peter, who serves on the board of the National Family Farm Coalition based in Washington, DC, sees this as a model ordinance for economic development in rural areas. “It’s tough making a go of it in rural America,” said St.Peter. “Rural working people have always had to do a little of this and a little of that to make ends meet. But up until the last couple generations, we didn’t need a special license or new facility each time we wanted to sell something to our neighbors. Small farmers and producers have been getting squeezed out in the name of food safety, yet it’s the industrial food that is causing food borne illness, not us.”
“And every food dollar that leaves our community is one more dollar we don’t have to pay for our rural schools or to provide decent care for our elders,” adds St.Peter. “We need the money more than corporate agribusiness.”
Three other towns in Western Hancock County will be voting on the ordinance at or ahead of their town meetings in the coming weeks. Penobscot, Brooksville, and Blue Hill all have the ordinance on their warrants.
Click here to view a copy of the Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance of 2011.
Contact:
Bob St.Peter
Saving Seeds Farm
Sedgwick, Maine
207-244-0908
bobstpeter@gmail.com
Mia Strong
Local Stock Food Cooperative
Sedgwick, Maine
207-359-8572
meezermia@gmail.com