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Be Well

Be Well: Healthy Cleveland

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 7:34 AM

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Anne Goodman, president and chief executive Cleveland Foodbank

With people realizing that what they eat has a direct impact on how healthy they are, the Cleveland City Council recently passed a resolution that sets new healthy eating guidelines. Ideastream health reporter Sarah Jane Tribble looked at the guidelines and talked with a couple of the people involved in their creation. She talked with ideastream's Morning Edition Host Rick Jackson.

Cleveland City Council announced a resolution in late October to support health food guidelines to be used by the city, it’s partners and others. But who’s really expected to follow the guidelines?

SARAH: City Councilman Joe Cimperman pushed this as part of the city’s Healthy Cleveland initiative, and he described the resolution as an official act of council that “sets the standard of where we want to be.” For now these are voluntary guidelines but Cimperman says they will become mandatory in 18 months. That means that you won’t be able to candy bars in the vending machines and the cafeteria at City Hall will serve food that meets these guidelines. But, what’s most interesting is the guidelines will also be followed by the organizations the city partners with. Such as after school programs for kids and in community centers. And places like the Cleveland Foodbank will also be following them.

What’s do the guidelines recommend?

SARAH: From a healthy eating perspective, it’s a real pleasure to read. It was put together with help from Ohio State University, the Cleveland Clinic, the Hunger Network and others. And it is similar to other lists that you’ll see from other government agencies. It limits proteins and encourages whole grains. It says that most of the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. And it even goes so far as to recommend limiting the salt content in canned vegetables and make sure pre-packaged fruit is in water or juice - as opposed to syrup.

During the recent debate on food stamps, there’s quite a bit of concern that it costs more to buy all those fruits and vegetables as compared with processed foods.

SARAH: Odds are that fresh brussel sprouts for your holiday meal later this week are going to be more expensive than any canned green vegetable that’s likely to have a lot of salt in it. We all face this at the grocery store. So I called Anne Goodman, the executive director at the Cleveland Foodbank. Her staff actually helped develop the guidelines, and she told me the Food Bank is actually ahead of the curve when it comes to healthy eating, and not just feeding people whatever they can to keep them from being hungry, as it used to.

“We were trying to prevent people’s stomachs from being empty. We were trying to make them full and that’s not enough. There’s a health crisis going on,” Goodman says.

The Foodbank is considering the quality of food it gives away while also dealing with an increased demand in their services: The nonprofit organization gave out 40 million meals in 2012 as compared to 34 million meals the year before that. And Goodman told me that they are busier than ever this year - even though the economy is slowly recovering.

How are they changing what they give out?

SARAH: They have been working with state officials, and with companies that donate to them, to get more fresh produce. They also spend their own money from dollar donations to buy more fresh produce. You can still donate canned items - the Foodbank won’t turn them away - but they prefer fresh Last year, the Foodbank distributed 12 million pounds of produce. This year, it is expecting to end the year having distributed 16 million pounds. And they are currently building a new cooler DOUBLE the size of their current one to store that fresh food.

“You know the cost of keeping people well and curing their diseases, heart disease and diabetes are really, really high. And the best way to prevent those things are with good nutrition and we know a lot more than we did 35 years ago when this business of food banking began. And it’s not enough to make somebody full. In fact you can make people sick that way. If you go to McDonald’s you can make your child full with a double cheeseburger and French fries for $2. That’s great deal. But have you made your child better off? And I would argue that you haven’t,” Goodman says.

Additional Audio

Will the Cleveland Foodbank refuse unhealthy donations? (Hint: No, but it might soon)

Additional Information

Cleveland Healthy Food Guidelines
Cleveland Foodbank


Health, Children's Health, Be Well, Be Well Podcast

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