"Eat an apple a day and keep the doctor away". We've all heard this axiom. To me it represents the wisdom that eating fruits (and vegetables if Popeye is any indication) can help fight disease and illness, actually preventing the need to see a doctor.
It's a fairly basic and simple-seeming prescription for health and the prevention of disease, yet how many of us with the means readily available actually do it?
Imagine if you didn't have the means? What if you didn't have the cash for fresh fruit and vegetables? Or if the area in which you lived didn't have a city-sponsored greenmarket, just "convenience stores" that sold unappetizing looking produce, if they sold fresh produce at all? What if you were on a fixed income? Or on disability and your income was subsidized by the state? Or you're employed but barely getting by and using government subsidies to fill in the gaps - such as Food Stamps?
Some stats about who in 2005 was using food stamps (from the Food Stamp website) : "50 percent of all participants are children (18 or younger), and 65 percent of them live in single-parent households. The average gross monthly income per food stamp household is $648."
Let me repeat: 50% of food stamp program participants are children under the age of 18, the population that will benefit from preventative measures the most. Yet how many are buying, have access to or are encouraged to buy the very things that will keep them healthy: fresh fruits and vegetables?
According to the New York Times, "Food stamps have long been associated in the public mind with other forms of public assistance, but a new report released today by the city's Independent Budget Office points out that since about 2003, a majority of New Yorkers using food stamps do not receive welfare benefits."
Are you surprised? I was!
In California, the WIC program conducted a study and found that
"... Intake of fruits and vegetables protects against several common chronic diseases, and low income is associated with lower intake...Participants valued fresh fruits and vegetables, and adding them to the WIC food packages will result in increased fruit and vegetable consumption."
The implication is that with an increased fruit and vegetable intake, these families will be healthier in both the short and long term. (For more discussion, the New York Times Well blog covered the WIC program outcome)
Prevention comes in many, many forms. The popularity of recent food trends like the localvores, slow food and the bestselling books by Michael Pollan have increased the public's awareness of the need for and the availability of whole and natural foods.
I would like to see the push for "real" food reaching the populations that are most at risk, with the least amount of resources and the most need for prevention. In regards to an apple a day, I would like to see our states' governments encouraging more farmers' markets in urbanized areas and encouraging food stamp participants to increase their families' intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
An apple a day can keep us all healthier.
Make your opinion known on this important healthcare issue in the 2008 presidential election. Comment on this SharePost and visit our Healthcare '08 election site to read more about the candidates' stances on 6 major health issues and find out which candidates is closest to your ideas!
Published On: January 23, 2008