Last week, The American focused on an effort to reduce obesity in 24 municipalities in St. Louis County through nutrition education. This week, we look at nutrition education in the City of St. Louis – one part of its efforts to reduce obesity in the city by 5 percent by 2018.
Reducing obesity is part of the St. Louis mayor’s sustainability action agenda, said Melissa Ramel, nutrition coordinator for the Department of Health.
As a result, the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) partnership was established about two years ago to reduce obesity in St. Louis by increasing access to healthier food, traffic calming to create a better experience for pedestrians; and engaging small food retailers and community members.
“It is a coalition of different organizations, educational institutions and businesses that are actively taking part in reducing obesity,” said Melissa Ramel, nutrition coordinator for the St. Louis Department of Health. “We have over 40 corporate partners and 100 residents.”
It includes major health care and health advocacy organizations, St. Louis Public Schools, Five major subcommittees work in conjunction with one another in the areas of Healthy Living, Healthy Eating, Health Care Access, Social Marketing and Data and Evaluation to contribute to overall obesity reduction.
Two of the subcommittees are currently focusing interventions in three particular zip codes in St. Louis.
“The zip codes that have been chosen by the HEAL Partnership are ones that are faced with not only high rates of obesity, but also high rates of chronic disease, such as heart disease, and cancer,” Ramel explained. “Those zip codes are 63111, 63106 and 63113.”
Ramel said a survey of residents in the Ville neighborhood indicated residents felt like they had access to healthy food, but needed education on new, healthier ways to prepare it.
Operation Food Search distributes food to thousands of people in need each month to reduce hunger in St. Louis. As a partner in reducing obesity, the group teaches nutrition and hands-on cooking classes for children and families in the city and the county.
Health Department interns provide nutrition education in four SLPS schools, Dunbar, Oak Hill, Segal elementary and Stevens Middle.
“That includes gardening at the schools and also talking about healthy snacks and some basic nutrition education,” Ramel said.
Additionally, Ramel said the UMSL Extension program, Stock Healthy Shop Healthy, is a continuum of the healthy Corner store project, where they go into corner stores and work with the owner to provide healthier choices.
The next step for the nutrition group is surveying residents in north city zip codes that are considered food deserts.
For more information on obesity in St. Louis, visit http://tinyurl.com/p3kodvh.