Bell Gardens takes steps against obesity

BELL GARDENS - The neighboring city of Bell Gardens has joined a statewide campaign aimed at reducing local obesity rates by introducing changes in city policies and environments.The Bell Gardens city council voted on June 28 to join the Healthy Eating Active Living Cities Campaign (HEAL). Bell Gardens joined seven Los Angeles County cities that have adopted resolutions to join the campaign. "Obesity is an epidemic in this country, and we should be working toward healthy lifestyle choices," said Priscilla Flores, mayor of Bell Gardens. "Our primary goal is to encourage healthy eating and physical activity to help prevent or reduce obesity and its related risk factors like heart disease and diabetes." Bell Gardens received a grant from the L.A. County Health Department to work in partnership with Family Health Care Centers of Greater Los Angeles to create and implement nutrition policies. In California, where more than half the adult population is overweight or obese, a recent study showed that the epidemic is costing the state more than $41 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity. Bell Gardens officials said they hope to control those costs by drawing on the HEAL campaign's free training and assistance in the adoption of policies "to improve the community's physical activity and retail food environments." One policy the city is considering is setting a nutrition standard for snacks and drinks in city vending machines, and city events and meetings. "The city wants to be a model for children and families who use our facilities," said Pamela Yugar, park and recreation director in Bell Gardens. "Sugar-sweetened beverages, along with high-calorie snacks, are a problem when it comes to childhood obesity. Our department and city want to support health." The city will also encourage employees to take walking meetings and walking breaks during long meetings. City employees will also be offered healthy food choices, and women returning from maternity leave will be encouraged to breastfeed. The resolution passed June 28 also encourages grocery stores to stock healthy foods in checkout aisles, as opposed to candy and sugar-sweetened beverages. "Bell Gardens is a pioneer in providing residents healthy lifestyle choices," said Charlotte Dickson of the HEAL campaign.

********** Published: August 5, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 16