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AHA Explores Healthy Food Financing in Tennessee

Areas lacking access to supermarkets and fresh food are often referred to as food deserts.

Food deserts exist in many urban and rural Tennessee communities, especially in lower-income areas where the incidence of obesity is alarmingly high. Residents lack affordable access to foods that would enable them to have a healthy diet, such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk and whole grains. Often these communities lack grocery stores or places to access health and affordable foods. These are the areas which can benefit from Healthy Food Financing.

Healthy Food Financing is a viable, effective, and economically sustainable solution to the problem of limited access to healthy foods. It provides financing for investment in underserved communities to meeting the demand for healthier food access. These resources help fresh food retailers overcome the initial barriers to entry into underserved, low-income urban and rural communities, and support renovation and expansion of existing stores so they can provide the healthy foods that communities want and need. Such an investment has positive economic impacts as well, since supermarkets bring jobs, increases the local tax base and produces a healthier workforce and community.

The American Heart Association is working with partners throughout Tennessee to explore Healthy Food Financing options.

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Healthy Eating Habits Start at Home

The mission of the American Heart Association is building lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.  To advance this mission, volunteers throughout Mississippi are working hard to ensure people have access to healthy food options by improving the state's Healthy Food Financing Initiative.  While it will take some time for us to be successful in our efforts, there are simple changes that you can make at home right now.  

According to the American Heart Association, meals away from home account for at least half of the money Americans spend on food.  But saving money – while eating healthier – is easi er than you might think. 

“With busy, on-the-go lifestyles, many Americans have lost touch with their kitchens and thrown in the towel on eating healthy, which is key to prevention of heart disease and stroke,” said Dr. Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., MPH, R.D., Chairperson of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont.  “Eating at home can improve a family’s diet – and it’s easier on the pocketbook, too.”

About one-third of Americans are overweight or obese, including nearly 13 million children.  Childhood obesity has become a major health concern, causing health problems in children that previously weren’t seen until adulthood such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.  Parents are key to helping overcome this national epidemic.

Click this link to read our Top 7 tips about the SIMPLE changes YOU can do to make your family healthier!

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Summertime Means Healthy Time!

Tired of cooking the same thing over and over, week after week?  Late Spring and early Summer are some of the best times of the year for healthy cooking with the plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables that are popping up at the local farmers’ markets,  grocery stores, and even in our own back yards!  Here is a great heart healthy recipe where you can put those fresh veggies to good use.

Eating heart healthy can be equally as delicious as it is good for your body.  And if you could save your heart by improving your diet, wouldn’t you at least want to give it a try?


2 teaspoons canola or corn oil
8 ounces zucchini, sliced
1/4 cup sliced onion
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
3/4 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
1/3 cup diced tomato
2 tablespoons water (plus more if needed)
1/8 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon (scant) dried oregano, crumbled
Pepper to taste

1.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Cook the zucchini, onion, and bell pepper for 3 minutes, or until the onion is soft, stirring frequently.
2.  Stir in the remaining ingredients except the pepper. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender, adding more water if necessary. Sprinkle with the pepper.

Nutrition Facts
Calories 69
 Total Fat 2.5 g
 Saturated Fat 0.0 g
 Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g
 Monounsaturated Fat 1.5 g
 Cholesterol 0 mg
 Sodium 9 mg
 Carbohydrates 11 g
 Fiber 2 g
 Sugars 3 g
 Protein 2 g

Dietary Exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat

© American Heart Association

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All Families Deserve Access to Healthy Food

Many people in Tennessee want to feed their families a healthy meal tonight, but simply can’t because they don't live near a supermarket.  Or, healthy foods cost too much at the local corner store. 

In an effort to improve access to healthy foods, the American Heart Association serves on the Tennessee Grocery Access Task Force along with over 60 health advocates, civic leaders, grocers and economic development officials.  Recently, the task force announced its recommendations to alleviate food deserts in the state. 

The marquee recommendation is for the State of Tennessee to fund a Fresh Food Financing Initiative that provides incentives to locate new grocery stores selling affordable, healthy and fresh foods in underserved, lower-income communities.  This will benefit many Tennesseans who currently rely on unhealthy fast food and snacks, since they do not have supermarkets in their neighborhoods or counties.   

  • What is a Food Desert?  It’s a community with little or no access to fresh, healthy foods—foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.  Residents in these areas, such as parts of Memphis and a lot of Tennessee, do not have supermarkets in their neighborhoods, forcing these families to rely on unhealthy fast food and snacks found at a corner quick market. 
  • This isn’t just an urban issue.  It affects our rural areas, too.  There are areas in Rural Tennessee where a grocery store might not be in an entire county.  The result leads to undermining the health and well-being of these families, especially their growing children.  

Living in a Food Desert is not only hazardous to one's health; it also takes away a child’s chance of living a healthy life as an adult.  Now is the time to set the right example and provide easy access to the fresh, healthy foods that every family and child deserves.  All families deserve access to healthy food!

Stay tuned for updates on this issue in the coming months.

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Thank you for a GREAT Day on the Hill!

On March 13th, the Tennessee Obesity Taskforce and the American Heart Association held its 2013 Day on the Hill activities. 
This year we had well over 60 people attend and those volunteers took part in 43 scheduled one-on-one meetings with their legislators.  It was a great day and I have had a lot of positive feedback about the meetings that were held with legislators.  We would like to say THANK YOU to each of you who made time out of their busy day to attend, and for those who weren’t able to, there’s always next year!  To see the issues we discussed with our lawmakers, please visit this link:

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