If 80 percent of heart disease can be prevented with lifestyle changes, we should all rally together for Healthy Food Financing Initiatives to increase access to healthy foods in Texas.
In 2014, I was declared medically dead on a cold operating table, surrounded not by loved ones, but by complete strangers telling me everything would be okay. It took a miracle for them to be proven right; I am one of the lucky ones. I learned after six days in recovery that I have a disease that requires me to eat healthier. Having access to healthy food everywhere I go is vital to my survival.
As someone who survived three heart attacks over the course of four days, at a fairly young age, I learned that heart disease knows no skin color, no age, and no body type. But it does discriminate. African American women die at a higher rate from heart disease than any other race of women or men combined.
Through working with the American Heart Association (AHA), I've discovered that some of the risk factors of this deadly disease greatly affect the African American community: We do not have adequate access to healthy food options, and we struggle to lead active lifestyles. This knowledge led me to start my own nonprofit organization, Rock Your Heart Society, where we focus on educating minority women about the disproportionate, negative effects of this disease on our community in comparison to others.
During June, National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, the AHA is encouraging Americans to add color to their meals throughout the month as part of its Healthy For Good™ movement. The AHA recommends four servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables each day. As volunteers with the AHA, members of the Rock Your Heart Society work to inspire and teach our community members how to add color to every meal and snack. Adding even one serving of color in the form of fruits or vegetables — fresh, frozen, canned or dried — each day is a great way to start building a healthier you.
Unfortunately, not all Americans have access to these healthier food options, limiting their ability to add color to their diet and making it difficult to fight this this deadly disease. The lack of local access to healthy foods in low-income communities makes it hard for many families to maintain well-balanced diets. In single-parent homes, money is limited, and when money is an issue, families resort to purchasing unhealthy foods from fast food restaurants or the corner stores — because the price is lower.
Recently, a count was done on how many fast food restaurants are inside a one-mile radius of the school where I teach in Fort Worth. It found that over 30 fast food restaurants and corner stores are available, but very few healthy food retailers serve the area. In Texas alone, over 3.4 million people in both urban and rural areas lack access to healthy food options.
I hope that together we can help save our hearts by supporting Healthy Food Financing Initiatives and encouraging state and local governments to attract grocery retail investment in low- and moderate-income, underserved communities. Join me in raising your voice for this movement: sign the “Closer to My Grocer” petition if you’d like to advocate for increased access to healthy food in your community, and help all Texans add color to their diets. For many of us, this is life or death.