Categorized | Health

Report ties expansion of local food system to community health, economy

MEDIA RELEASE

A recent health impact assessment ties the expansion of Hawaii County’s local food system to boosting community health, food security for families, and strengthening the local economy.

The Health Impact Assessment (HIA) built on earlier work by PingSun Leung at the University of Hawaii and Matthew Loke of the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture which showed that replacing 10 percent of Hawaii state imports with local farm output could result in the creation of more than 2,300 jobs, $188 million in sales, $47 million in earnings, and $6 million in state tax revenues.

The HIA suggests that increased local production, including home and school gardening, could also improve access to and affordability of more nutritious, farm-fresh foods for local families.

The HIA was funded by a $150,000 grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, and was prepared for the County of Hawaii by The Kohala Center in partnership with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Hawaii.

With the completion of the HIA, Hawaii’s legislative and regulatory decision-makers have essential information to positively impact the socio-economic and physical health of Hawaii Island residents when implementing the County’s agricultural plan.

Specific outcomes based on key recommendations from the HIA process include:

* The Hawaii Department of Health’s 2013 Physical Activity and Nutrition Plan includes recommendations to increase school garden capacity and agricultural training and nutritional education for teachers and the public

* The Kohala Center obtained federal funds to assist rural farmers markets to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), significantly increasing low-income families’ access to fresh food and augmenting small farmers’ incomes

* The University of Hawaii is developing six new farmer-training programs, and The Kohala Center obtained federal funding for a beginning farmer-training program

* The state Department of Education’s School Food Authority hired two new staff members to work on local farm-to-school procurement.

“The work The Kohala Center does is not only creative and innovative but more importantly, very necessary in instigating the much-needed change at both grassroots and institutional levels,” said Joy Barua, director of Community Benefit and Health Policy for Kaiser Permanente, Hawaii Region.

In the fall of 2013, the Kohala Center’s Health Impact Project-funded HIA was featured in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Connect Program, which allows grantees to discuss new approaches to improving health with policymakers.

“There’s a growing trend as more cities and states realize the importance and value of bringing health into decisions in other sectors,” said Aaron Wernham, director of the Health Impact Project. “Not only was the Kohala Center on the forefront of that, their work to integrate health considerations into the county agricultural policies will contribute to improving Hawaiians’ opportunity to be healthy.”

For theHIA executive summary, visit: www.kohalacenter.org/pdf/HIAEx…

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