Show me the stimulus money: Mother’s milk and fresh veg
For all the talk of “shovel ready,” it’s still not easy to identify public works that got money from the stimulus bill. I have seen a few signs labeling road construction work as “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” projects, but that’s about it.
However, on a local radio show this week, I heard about specific initiatives funded by the stimulus bill that are up and running and hopefully helping kids and adults eat better and live healthier lives. If you’d like to know where some of the $787 billion went, keep reading.
The Louisville Health and Wellness Department (yes, in Kentucky) won a $7.9 million grant from the Communities Putting Prevention to Work fund. The government received about 1,000 applications for this money and 44 cities, counties, and health departments in 31 states got funding to address obesity and smoking.
Two projects in Louisville that will benefit from the grant money involve breastfeeding and fresh produce.
Increase rates of breastfeeding
Some studies have shown that babies who get breast milk only during their first few months are less likely to be obese later in life. State and local health departments around the country are working to increase the current rate to 60% of moms exclusively breastfeeding babies age 0-3 months and 25% to exclusively breastfeeding babies age 0-6 months.
The Louisville health department is using the grant money to provide free lactation consultants at hospitals and to establish three new clinics around town to help new moms succeed with breastfeeding. While breastfeeding is “natural,” it’s definitely not “automatic.” Many women need help to make it work. These free services should help more moms and babies get the health benefits of breastfeeding.
Sell more tomatoes and bananas
You’ve heard of food deserts, urban areas where you can’t buy fruits and veg? The Louisville Health Department is using grant money to buy coolers for convenience stores so that they can expand their offering beyond cigarettes and junk food. Also, store owners are getting trained on how to purchase and manage fresh produce. If the barriers to increased fruit and veg availability are that low, this seems like a worthwhile expenditure of taxpayer money.