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New Orleans Expands Access to Healthy Foods

The City of New Orleans took another step towards reaching their goal of becoming a healthier city by the city’s 300th anniversary in 2018!

Recently, the City adopted a policy that will expand healthy food and beverage choices on city property. Now, all food and beverages provided by the City through meetings, events, cafeterias, vending machines, etc., will meet national nutrition standards. That means more whole grains, lower sodium options and few sugary drinks that are Fit NOLA approved.

We applaud the City of New Orleans for making the healthy choice the easy choice. A special thank you to the American Heart Association’s Metro New Orleans Board for working with city leaders and local vendors to provide education and tools to help implement the policy.

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The Food Trust Calls Alabama Legislature

As the Alabama Legislature prepares for special session, healthy food access advocates wonder if the Legislature will fund the Healthy Food Financing Act that became law earlier this year. In an opinion piece published today, Brian Lang with The Food Trust says that, "the State needs to take an important step and appropriate funding to the program. Successful programs in other states can be largely attributed to the presence of dedicated funding streams established through public and private partnerships committed to improving both the health and economies of local communities."

Why is this crucial? More than 1.8 million Alabamians live in areas with limited access to healthy food; this is taking a toll on their health. The American Heart Association will continue to work with VOICES for Alabama's Children and other coalition partners to bring healthy foods closer to home for all Alabamians.

To learn more about the importance of funding the Healthy Food Financing Act, read Brian's full article on and leave a comment!

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Let's Make the Healthy Beverage Swap!

In recent years research has made the connection between sugar-sweetened beverages and the increase in cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, diabetes, and overall healthcare costs. A 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 130 calories and 8 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association is calling on companies and consumers to make the healthy beverage swap. This swap includes options available in vending machines.

Here are recommended healthy beverage options that utilizes information included on a product’s Nutrition Facts panel:

  • Water (plain)
  • Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk; if flavored, no more than 130 calories per 8 fl. oz.
  • 100% fruit juice, no more than 120 calories per 8 fl. oz. with no added sugars/sweeteners (excludes non-nutritive sweeteners)
  • No more than 120 calories per 8 fl. oz. (preferred portion size)
  • No more than 150 calories per 10 fl. oz.
  • No more than 180 calories per 12 fl. oz.
  • Other beverages: no more than 10 calories per serving

Visit to download the complete Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage Toolkit and for more information on how to get your vending machines stocked with healthier options.

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Dieters Need Close Access to Healthy Food

You're obese, at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and so motivated to improve your diet that you've enrolled in an intensive behavioral program. But if you need to travel more than a short distance to a store that offers a good selection of healthy food, your success may be limited.

A new study from UMass Medical School and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health finds that not having close access to healthy foods can deter even the most motivated dieters from improving their diet, suggesting that easy access to healthy food is as important as personal motivation and professional guidance from health care providers.

"Community health programs should be evidence based, but many studies have showed conflicting associations between the distance to grocery stores and lower or higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes," said principal investigator Wenjun Li, PhD, associate professor of medicine and director of the Health Statistics and Geography Lab in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine at UMMS and senior author of the study.


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New Report Highlights Where Healthy Food Access Can Make a Difference

A new report released today highlights areas across Alabama where increasing access to healthy, fresh and affordable foods would make the biggest impact.

The report, “Fresh Food for All: Improving Access to Fresh Food in Alabama,” was authored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Wealth Creation Clinic and Emerging ChangeMakers Network (“ECN”), a Mobile-based organization that seeks to assist emerging leaders to make positive changes in economically challenged communities.

Using a combination of zip code and census tract data, the ECN report has identified well over 140 communities in Alabama that lack access to healthy, fresh and affordable foods, areas that are popularly referred to as “food deserts” or “areas of food imbalance.” People living in areas of food imbalance are more likely to have lower cognitive functioning, lower productivity, increased rates of obesity, and a higher rate of diet-related disease and death, the report finds.

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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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Should all foods in Tennessee schools be nutritious?

Often, the foods and beverages sold to students in vending machines, through fundraising efforts and other venues are high in fact, calories, sugar and/or salt. That’s why the “Smart Snacks in Schools” nutrition standards released by the USDA set limits on calories, fats, sugar and sodium and encourage the consumption of dairy, whole grains, protein, fruits and vegetables. These standards apply to all grade levels of any school participating in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. 

However, on July 25, 2014, the Tennessee State School Board adopted a weakened version of the rules allowing 30 days of the school year to be used for fundraisers. This far exceeds the American Heart Association’s current recommendation of zero days. The new rules now incorporate 9-12 grades where in the past they have been excluded.

The State Board committed to follow the progress of the new guidelines throughout the 2014-15 school year and review them next summer. The American Heart Association will continue to be involved with this issue as the school year progresses.

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Tennessee Legislature Addresses Access to Healthy Foods

The Tennessee General Assembly is addressing the issue of food deserts and healthy food financing this session.

Food deserts occur in mainly underserved urban and rural settings where access to healthy food is not available due to lack of a super market or means to transportation.  This lack of access reduces the likelihood of these citizens eating a healthy diet and perpetuates the health disparities and diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Key concepts to healthy food financing include:

  • Public private partnership
  • Grants and loans
  • Flexible, customized financing designed to meet the credit needs of grocers
  • Proven model to address the need for better healthy food access in underserved communities

The House bill - HB 2182 - will be heard in the House Health sub-committee on Tuesday, March 18 and the Senate companion bill - SB 2278 - in the Senate Health committee on Wednesday, March 19.

The American Heart Association has also partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create Voices for Healthy Kids®, a joint initiative working to help young people eat healthier food and be more active. Learn more at

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Memphis Celebrates National Eating Healthy Day

The American Heart Association observed National Eating Healthy Day on November 6 and Shelby County Mayor, Mark H. Lattrell Jr., helped raise awareness about the need to make healthy eating choices.  The Mayor issued a proclamation urging all citizens to improve nutrition and healthy eating both at home and in the work place to prevent heart disease and stroke.  The Mayor was part of a press conference which was followed by staff and volunteers distributing apples in downtown Memphis. The 'random act of nutrition' was a way to encourage healthy eating and raise awareness in the community.  The American Heart Association encourages healthy eating everyday not just on National Eating Healthy Day.  Be sure to check out these helpful tips your family can use to make smart choices about the food you eat.

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