October 14, 2007

Farmers markets as a focal point for change?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to share Kaiser Permanente’s food system work with leaders from about 40 different corporations, all of whom are interested in improving the health of Americans -- one way or another. Represented were AARP, Del Monte, Safeway, the Girl Scouts, YMCA, Center for Disease Control, WebMD, etc. A common theme discussed was that most of us know the right thing to eat for our health, but don’t always make the right choices.

My theory is pretty simple. Wherever we can, provide healthy foods as a choice, not as a mandate. While I am sure the specific health impacts of various foods are very important, I choose to focus on the basics -- a piece of fresh fruit for dessert can taste great and substitute for a high sugar, high fat option. An organic Suncrest peach from Mas Masamoto’s Fresno area farm in July is what I am writing about.

Copied below are a few words from one of our Kaiser Permanente Oakland nurses. Having a farmers’ market available at the work site, as a choice, can make a difference.

“I am a R.N. at Kaiser Oakland. I have been a nurse now for 12 years. I mostly worked emergency room and Trauma. I moved over to Oakland and joined the Kaiser family. I can't tell you how much this has changed my life. It has been a wonderful experience. I feel like I work for a Fortune 500 company. This is better than that. I can't tell you enough how wonderful it is to have our Farmer's Market. It has made Kaiser more of a community with the community. Employees and community members all gather around the fresh fruit and talk or listen to the music. It is so amazing to see everyone with smiles. Every Friday the local preschool, Growing Circles, comes with their kids to gather their fruit and veggies. It really is great to see. After seeing that, and receiving the great recipes and email notices about athletic activities, I got motivated to help out too. I formed a group called 'The Biggest Losers.' Unlike the TV show, it is not about winning a lot of money with the amount of weight lost. It is a group of people who want to meet for support in getting into a healthier lifestyle.”

Instead of the biggest loser, it sounds like she is a big winner.