How can we develop systems that support good eating habits and healthy communities? In this episode of Add Passion and Stir, two passionate women describe how their organizations support community health in New Mexico, a state where 25% of children are food insecure. Leigh Caswell, Director of the Center for Community Health at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, develops community health assessments and plans. Anzia Bennett, Director of Three Sisters Kitchen in Albuquerque, developed her business to create opportunities for the community to help build and benefit from the local food system. Both focus on healthy eating, which is a particular challenge in disadvantaged communities. “We know that [making healthy choices] as people of privilege is a challenge. But when you look at [disadvantaged] communities, you can see that they’re targeted…There’s a lot less opportunity to make healthy choices,” says Caswell. The Center’s programs – including healthy food ‘prescriptions,’ summer meals and a mobile farmers market – drive healthier eating habits and contribute to healthier economies. “The question we ask is ‘what makes you feel good when you eat certain foods…what energizes you,’” says Bennett. “That becomes a really beautiful way to tap into a more mindful relationship with the food we eat.” Three Sisters Kitchen has a local food shop, café, commercial kitchen, test kitchen, community dining room and classroom to support food entrepreneurs’ development of ideas that extend the revenue-generating season for local farmers.
Caswell believes that there has to be big investment if we want to shift our food culture. She believes that federal healthcare policy needs to provide resources that allow healthcare providers to leverage their own resources like cafeterias, purchasing power, and communication channels. “Making healthy choices around food is so complex that we have to work in so many different levels of the socio-ecologic framework,” she explains. Bennett agrees that federal policy around farms subsidies needs to change to level the playing field for small growers and farmers committed to organic, biodynamic, or sustainable practices. “When we talk about healthy food, access to healthy food, and food as medicine, we’re literally talking about what that food does in our bodies, but we’re also talking about the ways food connects us to our families and our traditions,” she says.
Learn about successful models for building communities in this in-depth conversation between two talented community health practitioners.