Welcome to my blog! As the coordinator of the Ingredients for Change Campaign, I am spending this year visiting 30 low-income communities throughout the USA that are actively working to create more equitable and accessible healthy food systems to combat food insecurity and disproportionately high rates of obesity and diabetes. It's my job to partner with community groups that help low-income populations gain greater accessibility to healthy food sources. I assist each group in planning a community screening of the feature documentary Food, Inc., in order to create a public engagement and action opportunity, and reach audiences "beyond the choir." The Campaign is being run by Active Voice - my organization - and Participant Media (the film's producer), and is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This blog will provide some snapshots of what I've observed , and some of the inspiring projects and people I've met. I hope you enjoy it - and please feel free to contribute and/or contact me with your questions and perspectives. Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: The views and perspectives expressed in this blog are those of Matthew Green, and do not reflect the positions of Active Voice, Participant Media, or The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Boone County, Arkansas - 3/10/2010

From St. Louis, I drove south through Missouri (or Missoura, depending on who you ask) to the Ozarks. Just across the border in Arkansas sits Boone County. A predominantly white region, Boone County is home to several KKK factions that are still present and active (I was told that a community film screening several years ago on the history of U.S. race riots got picketed by Klansmen).

In Harrison, the county seat, and the city where the partner group is based, blacks were nearly universally driven out of town in two separate race riot incidents in 1905 and 1919, earning it the label of a “sundown town." The North Arkansas Partnership for Health Education, located within North Arkansas University, is the IFC partner I met with, and a recently named RWJF Healthy Kids Healthy Communities site. They serve Boone and neighboring Newton Counties. Both counties have a substantial proportion of residents who live below the poverty line (nearly 17 percent in Boone and almost 22 percent in Newton). Over 66 percent of Boone County is overweight or obese, and the group’s mission is both to provide healthier food sources and increase the amount of physical activity opportunities. They are currently working on several initiatives, including a new walking trail, and the installment of community gardens.

At the meeting, one of the organizers noted that while implementing the physical education mandate was somewhat clear cut, the food and nutrition piece was a bit harder to piece together. “We seem like we know what we want to do in terms of physical activity, but are kind of confused in terms of food,” said NAPHE Director Dr. Rick Hinterthuer, adding that issues around food access kept popping up. “You can give a kid beans, but what do you do if the kids doesn’t know how to cook them. This (project) might be a good piece of the puzzle … I hope this can help folks.”

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