Alameda County Campaign Promotes Healthier Food, Drink Choices

Alameda County officials are conducting a campaign this month to make the public aware of the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages and the benefits of shopping for fresh seasonal foods at local farmer's markets.

Social Services Agency officials say that 54.6 percent of adults and 34.7 percent of school-aged children in the county are overweight or obese and 63.7 percent of adolescents drink one or more sugary drinks each day.

The officials said those children are potentially adding an additional 1,000 calories per week to their diets in sugary drinks alone.

County officials also said there are nearly five times as many fast food restaurants and convenience stores in the county as there are grocery stores and farmer's markets.

Next week the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will acknowledge the month-long campaign by issuing its fifth annual CalFresh Awareness Month proclamation, called "CalFresh for Health."

Known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, CalFresh helps qualified low-income individuals and households in meeting their nutrition needs by buying food at many markets and food stores.

The campaign aims to address the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages and to fulfill the county's commitment to protecting the health and wellness of children and adults by monitoring the distribution of high-calorie, low nutrition sugary drinks.

The campaign also aims to raise awareness of the health benefits associated with shopping for fresh seasonal foods at local farmer's markets by promoting initiatives called "Rethink Your Drink" and "Get More at the Farmer's Market."

Social Services Agency officials said heightened awareness and education are the goals, with an emphasis on farmer's markets throughout the county that accept electronic benefit transfer cards and participate in "Market Match," a program in which CalFresh participants can use their benefits to increase their buying power and make healthy food choices for their families.

County officials said 55,784 families and individuals rely on the CalFresh program to feed themselves and their families.

Social Services Agency Director Lori Cox said in a statement, "One of our highest priorities is our commitment to reducing hunger and food insecurity in Alameda County by increasing access and participation in the CalFresh Program."

Cox said, "Many county residents would be shocked by the statistics from their own community: one in six county residents misses a meal weekly. It is estimated that 13 percent of county residents live in poverty."

Cox said, "CalFresh can and does make all the difference between hunger and nutrition."

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