Maintaining a healthy lifestyle — including proper nutrition and the elimination of certain foods — is critical to living well with COPD. (Courtesy photo)
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle — including proper nutrition and the elimination of certain foods — is critical to living well with COPD. (Courtesy photo)

Imagine a greater Washington region where all families have opportunities to access affordable food, including fruits and vegetables, allowing eating healthy to be the norm in every neighborhood across the community.

One in 10 people in America are not getting enough food each day — or getting the nutrients they need. That’s called nutrition insecurity. Lack of nutrition security can lead to a diet high in fat, sodium and sugar, while not providing the nutrition people need. COVID-19 has amplified this need by making it harder to afford or access healthy foods.

Erica McIntyre, Community Impact Director, American Heart Association, Greater Washington Region

As these statistics indicate, not everyone has access to healthy food. This makes eating healthy extremely inconvenient, if not impossible. If organizations do not address this issue, people in historically disadvantaged communities run the risk of living a shorter life expectancy and may suffer from complex health problems.

10.87% of adults (100,482 people) have a low income and low food access in the greater Washington region. In some counties, like Prince George’s County, as many as one in seven people is food insecure.  

The American Heart Association has an ongoing responsibility to ensure people reach their full potential for a long and healthy life. We are responding with the full organizational strength of the American Heart Association, and we are asking for your support.

The American Heart Association hard at work across the Greater Washington Region by:

Working at the federal level, all 50 states, and in local communities to achieve policy, systems, and environmental change leading to improved nutrition security, reaching over 6 million people in the past year.
Ensuring all three major federal COVID-19 legislative packages (Families First, CARES, and Heroes) inlcuded strong nutiriton security provisions.
Strengthening the Family Lifestyle Program, a group convened by the American Heart Association that is a clinical community initiative helping to connect Washington, D.C., families to nutrition, physical activity, and community resources to support and maintain their health and well-being. The program consists of clinical training, a multi-disciplinary program and community resource guide.
Working with Howard University to ensure campus cafeterias provide healthier food offerings, including AHA’s heart-healthy recipes. We are also partnering to advance the university’s tobacco-free school zone policy and conducting an advocacy training for students in March 2021.
In Virginia, facilitating a partnership between ACTs Prince William Food Rescue and the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic which resulted in connecting 800 food-insecure patients and their families with food that otherwise would have been wasted.
In Maryland, making the healthy choice the easy choice by providing menu recommendations, based on AHA’s food and beverage guidelines, that were adopted by the Food Truck Healthy Options Certification Program in Prince George’s County. Participating vendors are now providing residents with healthy food options as part of their menu.
Propelling Prince George’s County, Maryland, as a national leader in promoting an equitable culture of health through the unanimous vote to pass the Healthy Kids Meals Bill (CB-071). The first in the nation to pass a kids meals policy like this, covering both beverages and food. Making water, milk and 100% fruit juice default beverage options for all kids’ meals and also ensuring options in kids’ meals that will limit calories, sugar, salt and fat.
Forming a new parternship Prince Georges Community College (PGCC) to create the Heart Health Hub to help increase awareness of healthy choices to forge a healthier and more equitable food environment and reduce food insecurity. PGCC will implement a culinary education course utilizing the AHA’s Simple Cooking with Heart curriculum guide. We celebrated the launch this past October with a food distribution that fed over 1,000 families.
To continue to drive impact and save lives it will take even more partnerships with individuals, organizations and policymakers. There are many ways to support by learning more about your health, sharing resources, volunteering, having your company sponsor, donating and taking part in our campaigns and digital experiences like the upcoming Greater Washington Region Heart Ball on March 25. Learn more at

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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