From Our Team
When it comes to health and quality of life, food plays a central role. Yet quality of life conversations more often are associated with recreational events, arts and culture, libraries, medical services, schools, jobs, housing, weather, and other topics. Food may only be considered as a factor in cost of living calculations.
Air, water, shelter, and food are essential for life. Urban plans, government agencies, and private developments frequently have long-range plans for clean air, water, and housing. But master planning for food, although not absent, seems to be a smaller piece of the puzzle – until now.
El Paso is one of the first cities in the nation to have a comprehensive plan that includes a full chapter on health. The El Paso plan has a goal to, “Create a food system in which City residents can meet their proper nutritional needs.” Go to www.planelpaso.org to see the full plan.
Better than a written plan addressing nutrition, is the action currently taking place. The following are some examples of how this region is creating a sustainable food system to help everyone meet nutritional needs now and into the future.
A regional group of organizations is working with the Texas Hunger Imitative to identify ‘food deserts,’ which are hot-spots where it is difficult to purchase healthy food.
The Paso del Norte Health Foundation, The University of Texas at El Paso, Texas Tech Medical Health Science Center, and the University of Texas School of Public Health have formed a partnership to establish a Center of Excellence for Healthy Eating and Active Living.
New Mexico State researcher, Dr. Collin Payne, is studying ways to design grocery stores in Las Cruces and El Paso that encourage shoppers to purchase more fruit and vegetables.
The City of El Paso Parks and Recreation Department established a community garden and is working with the neighborhood association to make it sustainable.
Executives from regional hospitals, non-profits, and government agencies in El Paso, Las Cruces, and Cd. Juárez formed the Coalition for a Healthy Paso del Norte Region and are collaborating to reach specific nutrition objectives.
The County of El Paso is pilot testing community gardens for youth at Ascarte Park.
La Semilla Food Center established school gardens in Las Cruces and is developing a youth farm in Anthony to teach young people about food.
The City of El Paso is working to provide nutritious food options at all city-owned public venues, including an innovative project with the El Paso Zoo.
UTEP professor, Dr. Maria Duarte, in partnership with the El Paso Department of Public Health and others are providing free on-line nutrition education for child care workers.
El Pasoans Fighting Hunger, the regional food bank, is opening a new facility with more food storage capacity and providing programs to feed those in need.
El Paso Independent School District is implementing a new curriculum emphasizing nutrition.
Deming Public Schools are revamping health education emphasizing nutrition.
There is still much work that is needed to ensure nobody in the Paso del Norte region goes hungry and we all are able to eat affordable and nutritious food. Still, we on the right track and that is something of which to be proud.
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