80 people went to Dallas emergency rooms 5,139 times in a year — usually because they were lonely

It is estimated that emergency room visits cost Parkland Hospital $14 million in a 12-month period. “Poverty and food shortage are factors for the frequent visits,” but so is loneliness.

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Attorneys General Sue Trump Administration Over School Nutrition Rollbacks

A coalition of state attorneys general is suing the Trump administration for weakening the federal nutrition standards for school meals that are fed to about 30 million children across the country.

“Over a million children in New York — especially those in low-income communities and communities of color — depend on the meals served daily by their schools to be healthy, nutritious, and prepare them for learning,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. Joining James in the lawsuit are the attorneys general of California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico and Vermont.

As we’ve reported, last year the Trump administration gave school lunch administrators more flexibility in serving up refined grains, including white breads, biscuits and white pastas. The move weakened standards set during the Obama administration aimed at serving more nutritious and fiber-dense whole grains, which are a key part of a healthy diet.

In addition, the Trump administration put the brakes on targets to reduce the amount of salt allowed in school meals. At the time, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wrote: “If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted.”

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To Curb Kids’ Sugary Drink Habits, Pediatricians Now Call For Soda Taxes

Pediatricians have long warned parents about the risks of consuming too many sugary drinks — including the link to Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Now, the nation’s leading group of kids’ doctors, the American Academy of Pediatrics, together with the American Heart Association, has endorsed a range of strategies designed to curb children’s consumption — including taxes on sugary drinks, limits on marketing sugary drinks to kids and financial incentives to encourage healthier beverage choices.

“For children, the biggest source of added sugars often is not what they eat, it’s what they drink,” says Natalie Muth, a pediatrician and the lead author of the new joint policy statement. By one estimate, kids and teens get about 17 percent of their calories from added sugars — and about half of those calories come from drinks.

1 in 10 senior households relies on food stamps

Many older Americans are struggling to keep food on the table.

One in 10 households with seniors aged 60 and older receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also called food stamps, according to a study released Wednesday by the anti-poverty nonprofit Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), in collaboration with AARP Foundation.

U.S. Census Bureau data from all 3,142 counties in the nation show the rate of senior SNAP usage remains largely consistent for all kinds of counties, the analysis found. Some 10% of senior homes in metropolitan areas, 10% of those in small towns, and 11% of those in rural areas participate in SNAP. However, out of the 50 counties with SNAP participation above 25%, 75% were rural and only 15% were metropolitan.

The number of elderly SNAP beneficiaries is likely to increase in the coming years as baby boomers age and continue to face unique financial challenges. Rent has grown faster than wages over the past two years, according to numbers from the Labor Department released in July, and health-care premiums have risen from an average of $6,000 per year in 1999 to $18,000 in 2016, an Economic Policy Institute study found.

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Dallas health non-profits have a new tool in their fight to increase food access

In the fight to increase food access in Dallas, area health nonprofits have a new weapon that will help them identify where Dallas faces the most urgent needs.

The City of Dallas Community Food Assessment, an interactive map that highlights key data like the concentration of diseases such as obesity and diabetes, was presented Friday at the seventh annual Dallas Hunger Summit, where dozens of area nutrition nonprofits gathered to listen to what Dallas’ hospital health systems and other health groups are doing to serve Dallas’ neediest.

Heather Lepeska, a manager at the City of Dallas’ Office of Economic Development, said during the presentation to about 200 attendees that the map took about a year to develop from data sources from the city, county, state and federal levels.

“We all have really good information and data on food access, hunger and health as it relates to what our interest areas are, but we hadn’t really coordinated and consolidated it into a document to give us a comprehensive snapshot of what we have here today,” Lepeska said.

The map highlights five key areas by ZIP code: concentration of grocery stores, community gardens, supplemental nutrition opportunities, income, and health indicators. It allows users, for example, to compare diabetes and obesity rates in north and south Dallas. It also shows things like how many grocery stores, corner stores and dollar stores are in a given ZIP code.

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North Texas Food Bank’s new facility hopes to be a hub for a fresh distribution model

The North Texas Food Bank is leaving a longtime distribution location at the heart of North Texas’ urban poverty center in southern Dallas — and it’ll be a blessing for the hungry people around it, the organization says.

The new Perot Family Campus in Plano, opening in September, will serve as the group’s main distribution center. Part of the food bank’s 10-year, $55 million Stop Hunger Build Hope campaign, the facility doubles the space and triples the refrigerated storage of the current location.

The 230,000-square-foot warehouse at the Bush Turnpike and Coit Road also has four times as many loading docks, allowing more perishable food to be delivered and shipped out before hitting peak ripeness. It’ll be more energy efficient, too, with insulated flooring and loading docks, according to the food bank’s chief executive and president, Trisha Cunningham.

The other half of the 10-year plan dedicates about $24 million to more than 260 partner agencies so they can focus on replacing shelf-stable staples with the fresh produce and proteins often lacking in low-income diets. The money can go to anything from energy bills to adding pantry space.

“I think there is a fallacy out there that, ‘Oh well if [the food bank] is leaving South Dallas they don’t really care about South Dallas,'” Cunningham said. “It’s really irrelevant where our facilities are because we can serve those 260 partner agencies from wherever.”


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On days food stamps are issued, grocery stores push soda sales—but only in low-income neighborhoods

May 31st, 2018
by H. Claire Brown

A new study shows stores in neighborhoods with high SNAP enrollment are four times as likely to advertise or display sugary drinks during the days payments are disbursed.

Most people spend a little extra money on payday. In Iceland, for instance, half the population spends 25 percent more than usual on the day paychecks are issued. This isn’t lost on grocery stores, unsurprisingly, which commonly raise prices when people have more spending money. But new research reveals an overlooked method retailers use to capture more of that first-of-the-month paycheck: by ramping up soda marketing, especially to low-income shoppers.

A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicates that retailers are more likely to market soda during the days of the month when people receive money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps). The research, which focuses on three cities in upstate New York, shows that stores in census tracts with high SNAP enrollment are more than four times more likely to advertise or display sugary drinks during the days SNAP payments are disbursed.

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…stores are 1.9 times as likely to display sugary drinks prominently [] on SNAP issuance days as compared to the rest of the month, and the prevalence of soda advertisements was [] 1.7 times the average volume during benefit disbursement. When the researchers accounted for income level, the results were even more stark. While higher-income communities saw no change in soda marketing across the month, communities with high levels of SNAP reliance—at least 28 percent enrollment—were 4.35 times as likely to put up soda displays during the days where people received their SNAP benefits.

Access to fresh food is urgent

“Without vision, the people perish.”

This passage from Proverbs can also describe the food deserts of America. Failure to provide access to healthy food is an injustice with far-reaching implications. Without vision, these deserts proliferate.

A food desert is described as an area without a grocery store within one mile. Popular mythology is that these areas are all low-income, high-crime communities. But there are other truths.

The southern section of Dallas, an area comprising 54 percent of the city’s geographical area, has 270,000 residents. Yet it has only nine grocery stores with fresh, quality food. As founder and executive director of FEED Oak Cliff, I encounter the repercussions felt by the injustice of food deserts each day.

Residents of all income levels may reside in food deserts, where access to quality grocery stores is an issue either because of distance or lack of transportation. Some census tracts are plagued by low access to good food, and 40 Dallas communities are defined as food deserts.

Continue reading this case study by FEED Oak Cliff Founder and Executive Director Anga Sanders below:

Why do poor Americans eat so unhealthfully? It’s not what you think

The verdict is in: Food deserts don’t drive nutritional disparities in the United States the way we thought. Over the last decade, study after study has shown that differences in access to healthful food can’t fully explain why wealthy Americans consume a more healthful diet than poor Americans.

If food deserts aren’t to blame, then what is?

I’ve spent the better part of a decade working to answer this question. I interviewed 73 California families — more than 150 parents and kids — and spent more than 100 hours observing their daily dietary habits, tagging along to grocery stores and drive-through windows. My research suggests that families’ socioeconomic status affected not just their access to healthful food, but something even more fundamental: the meaning of food.

Most of the parents I interviewed — poor and affluent — wanted their kids to eat nutritious food and believed in the importance of a healthful diet.

But parents were also constantly bombarded with requests for junk food from their kids. Across households, children asked for foods high in sugar, salt and fat. They wanted Cheetos and Dr. Pepper, not broccoli and sweet potatoes. One mom echoed countless others when she told me that her kids “always want junk.”

While both wealthy and poor kids asked for junk food, the parents responded differently to these pleas.

An overwhelming majority of the wealthy parents told me that they routinely said “no” to requests for junk food. In 96 percent of high-income families, at least one parent reported that they regularly decline such requests.

Parents from poor families, however, almost always said “yes” to junk food. Only 13 percent of low-income families had a parent that reported regularly declining their kids’ requests.

One reason for this disparity is that kids’ food requests meant drastically different things to the parents.

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