Lawmakers discuss alternative ways to fight obesity

Lawmakers in Washington are finding a way to combat obesity and other food-related diseases without banning Happy Meal toys.

A coalition of the House and Senate on Tuesday introduced bills that would invest $500 million to help cut back on food deserts across the nation.

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative would leverage private investment through federal loans and grants to create or expand fresh food outlets in underserved communities, like the Bayview district in San Francisco.

The initiative’s public-private partnership would tackle the obesity crisis in these communities, where nearly 1 in 3 children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

An estimated 25 million Americans have limited access to a nearby full-service supermarket selling fresh foods and access to healthy food is associated with lower risk for obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases, according a 2010 report by PolicyLink and The Food Trust.

The loans and grants from the Healthy Food Financing Initiative would help supermarkets and other fresh food retailers open new stores or expand their fresh food offerings in low-income rural, suburban and urban areas.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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