Time to Expand the Health & Wellness Focus

October 06, 2010

Fruit, vegetables, health, wellness and prevention are top of mind for most Americans these days.

Fruit, vegetables, health, wellness and prevention are top of mind for most Americans these days; from the federal government to local communities, improving quality of life through access to more healthful foods is certainly a priority. Millions of dollars have been given out in USDA grants focused on reviewing and improving food and nutrition assistance programs, increasing availability and access to fresh fruits and vegetables in food desserts, as well as improving school lunch programs for eligible students; all of which target low-income Americans.  
On the other end of the spectrum, we see the likes of Alice Waters and Michael Pollan hoping to persuade the top one percent or so to choose foods produced locally, sustainably, and of course organic…without thinking twice about cost. The Lempert Report sees a clear divide here, which leaves us wondering what’s being done to help the average, middle class American?
Sure national campaigns like Meatless Mondays, community gardens, TV shows like the “The Biggest Loser” and “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” as well as updates to the Dietary Guidelines and Food Pyramid, all convey the message that food and health are so closely related, but it still seems as if Americas’ middle class is supposed to just follow the lead and start making changes. Well we all know that’s not the case, and many of us just need a little help sometimes, especially in the age of convenience when seeking out healthy meals frankly isn’t as easy as picking up a pepperoni pizza or stopping at the local fast food joint. 
Recent review of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the most comprehensive data set on the health and nutritional status of both adults and children in the United States across all income levels, points to Americans' continued failing health grade as well as healthy dietary adherence. As mentioned, there are federal programs in place to help America’s poorest, but with the same health problems and in need of similar guidance, the middle class is left to fend for themselves.  
Clearly its time to expand the focus and provide the everyday American with the tools they need to stay healthy. Supermarkets have a wonderful opportunity here to pick up the slack and educate their shoppers on how they can improve their health based on their selections in the market.