#ChewOnIt: Let's Create Food Security

While I was listening to the radio on Tuesday, one of KUAR’s “Being Human” segments came on – it was Dr. Juliana Flinn of UALR’s Anthropology department talking about food security.

 

In the brief update, Dr. Flinn shared that food insecurity is alarmingly high among Arkansas seniors. It has a lot to do both with rising food prices and limited accessibility to nutritious and fresh foods. Food insecurity, she said, leads to all sorts of health issues – including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity to name a few. Obviously, this is a problem and it’s expected to get worse as more baby boomers find themselves classified as senior citizens.


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An opportunity to fight those statistics is being presented by the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention (ArCOP, arkansasobesity.org) next month.

One of ArCOP’s objectives is to increase access to healthy foods. In order to work towards this, ArCOP encourages folks to work together at the community level through a Growing Healthy Communities recognition program.

The point of this program is three-fold. First, just by getting permission to list folk’s names as part of the “team”, each of the “members” learns a bit more about what others in the community are doing. This helps break down those local silos of effort that always seem to spring up when we’re busy. Second, by submitting an application to ArCOP, each community gives tidbits of local data to be collected, assessed, and leveraged with all the other communities across the state. This brings more attention and funding to Arkansas. Finally, when ArCOP receives funding, they pass it on to the communities they recognize as Growing Healthy Communities because they know these communities are ready to make change happen.

ArCOP’s method of passing on funding is pretty awesome: As a statewide coalition, they do the homework to identify proven strategies. Then, they provide training to Growing Healthy Communities on these strategies. To actually make change though, they give funding to communities to implement the training.

It just so happens that I worked with ArCOP for more than two years and continue to stay involved as a member. In the last recognition cycle, I worked through the proper channels and submitted applications on behalf of Faulkner County and the City of Conway. (I am also happy to share that I had a hand in inspiring the University of Central Arkansas to apply as well.)

ArCOP awarded both Faulkner County and UCA with the “Emerging” recognition level and the City of Conway with the “Blossoming” recognition level. Because of this recognition, our communities, along with the other Emerging and Blossoming communities, are invited to the Healthy Active Arkansas Summit that ArCOP is hosting right here in Conway on April 5th.

On the topic of food, training includes community and school gardens, Cooking and Shopping Matters programs, pop-up events, breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace, and worksite nutritional standards. While details on the actual training as still a bit scant, each of these topics can easily be turning into projects that increase food security for someone. And the really neat thing is that each of our recognized Growing Healthy Communities could receive $1,000 in funding to get started.

Now the issue is getting full teams of the right folks to the training. Towards that end, the Faulkner County Health Initiative (faulknercohealth.org) is coordinating a team at the county level, and I hope that folks from the Conway and UCA teams will be taking advantage of this opportunity as well.

I can’t just share information related to food, though, because I really want to inspire folks to start at home and in the kitchen. So this week I offer a few more recipes that I made with love for others. There’s a bit more involvement in the loaded meatballs than I normally give you, but the nutrients packed into them – and then the ease of making soup with the leftovers – are totally worth it. And because I love enjoying all things in moderation, I also give you malted chocolate espresso birthday delight cupcakes. They were made for a friend’s birthday and (one of) the hidden delights is that these cupcakes have about half the sugar normally found in cake and icing recipes – and no one who tasted these cupcakes missed it. Check out the recipe notes for tips, adaptations, and tools. And, as always, each goody with a farm name referenced was acquired through Conway Locally Grown (conway.locallygrown.net).

Get recipes in the "related Stories" links with this article

Loaded Meatballs with Sweet Pepper Sauce
Loaded Meatball Soup
Malted Chocolate Espresso Birthday Delight Cupcakes

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