By Philip Haldiman
When thinking about healthy neighborhoods, food isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind.
But a recent study from the University of Texas at Arlington found that urban sprawl, a quality the Valley of the Sun is known for, has led to the creation of food deserts in metropolitan areas across the United States.
About one in six Arizonans is affected by food insecurity and about 500,000 Arizonans will face a diet-related illness by 2030, according the Arizona Department of Ecnomic Security.
Because of statistics like these, city officials have made it a point to include access to nutritious food as a goal in the new general plan draft, Peoria’s road map to planning for the future. The goal is part of the plan’s Healthy Neighborhoods chapter.
Residents can view a draft of the general plan and provide input at planpeoriaaz.com.
A final draft of the plan is expected to be on the ballot in the November 2020 election.
Peoria Planning Director Chris Jacques said literature suggests an increasing number of Americans suffer from chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease among others, so the notion of healthy neighborhoods recognizes the built environment — where people live and work — has a strong influence on people’s health and longevity.
Therefore, city officials found it important the subject of healthy neighborhoods, including access to nutritious food, be part of the Peoria’s general plan.
“The form or design of the modern American community, characterized by low dense, auto-centric uses requires a reliance on the automobile leading to diminished opportunities for physical activity in daily life. Peoria understands this link and like many communities, recognizes the importance of promoting public health through community design,” Mr. Jacques said.
The draft general plan states a community’s health is shaped by many factors related to food, including access to healthy food and sustainable food systems. Likewise, diet and exercise are among the most effective means to preventing and treating significant chronic diseases. Thus, how communities promote healthy eating, a range of healthy food choices, and physical activities is important in managing health care costs for Peoria and its residents, according to the document.
Mr. Jacques said policies promoting access to healthy food could be realized through expanded opportunities for farmers markets, community gardens and partnerships with non-profits that specialize in providing mobile or fixed access to underserved communities in the city.
“Additionally, consuming locally produced foods can reduce the need for long-distance transportation, which can reduce environmental impacts, and it supports the livelihoods of local producers and local businesses,” he said.
Christa Esquibel, owner/operator of Momma’s Organic Market, said having access to nutritious foods in Peoria neighborhoods is extremely important to the well-being of residents and by extension, the city as a whole.
Momma’s Organic Market takes place 9 a.m.-2 p.m., every Saturday at 99th and Northern avenues.
Ms. Esquibel said stopping by the farmer’s market should be residents’ first stop before going to the big grocery stores, especially since shopping at small businesses helps the local economy,
“The items you’re getting don’t travel far and are very fresh,” she said. “A lot of the products at a farmers market don’t have preservatives and additives like the mass produced foods, so they are better for you.”😉
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697, email@example.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.
IF YOU GO
What: General plan open house
When: 6 p.m. Aug. 21
Where: Cibola Vista, Trailhead Room, 27501 N. Lake Pleasant Pkwy.
More info: 623-773-7200
If you go
What: Momma’s Organic Market
Where: 99th and Northern avenues
When: 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturdays
More info: 602-703-7154