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Speak out to protect efforts to address food based health disparities in Kansas

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Kansas House Bill 2595, which seeks to bar local governments from requiring and regulating food nutrition labels, will be debated on the House floor next week.

Under the bill, municipalities would be not be able to offer incentives for grocery retailers, farmers, or other businesses that provide nutritious food for families in underserved rural and urban areas.

We are asking our partners to contact their elected officials to let them know how language in the bill could potentially impact you or your organization.

One of the most troubling definitions in the bill is that of “food based health disparities.”  Based on the definition, the bill would prohibit political subdivisions (local units of government and the like) from addressing food based health disparities (urban and rural low income areas/food deserts) through licensing, permitting or regulatory approval.

This creates a problem for anyone working to improve access to healthy food in underserved areas. For those of you working to attract and retain rural and urban grocery stores, corner stores or even farmers markets/community gardens, it’s time to speak out.

There are several other issues stemming from the broad language of the bill. You can see by the definitions, below,  it has potential to negatively impact activities listed there. Please take a moment to contact your elected officials to tell them about these issues and ask them to vote no on the bill.

Retail Food Establishment or Food Service Operation as defined in HB 2595

A Retail Food Establishment or Food Service Operation is defined as “any place in which food is served or is prepared on the premises for retail sale or service in a heated state or heated by the seller, mixed or combined by the seller for sale as a single item or sold with eating utensils provided by the seller and is intended for immediate consumption. Such term shall include, but not be limited to, fixed or mobile restaurants, coffee shops, cafeterias, short-order cafes, luncheonettes, grills, tea rooms, sandwich shops, soda fountains, taverns, private clubs, roadside kitchens, commissaries, drive-in restaurants and any other private, public or nonprofit organization or institution routinely serving food and any other eating or drinking establishment or operation where food is served or provided for the public with or without charge.”

 

Health Disparities as defined in HB 2595

Health Disparities are defined as “differences in health outcomes and their determinants between segments of the population, as defined by social, demographic, environmental, and geographic attributes.”  CDC, CDC Health Disparities and Inequality Report–United States, 2011, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Rep. 3 (Jan.14, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/other/su6001.pdf (accessed Sept. 15, 2012),  See also 42 U.S.C. 285t(d)(1) (defining “health disparity population”).  Thus, when one group within a community (e.g., the elderly, African Americans, or those who live in rural areas) has a higher rate of chronic disease compared to other citizens, this group is suffering from a health disparity. Reducing these disparities has been a national goal for more than a decade. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Disparities, http://healthypeople.gov/2020/about/DisparitiesAbout.aspx (accessed Sept. 15, 2012), and is an explicit goal of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.  See http://www.healthequityks.org/index.html–noting that “[t]he term health “inequity” goes hand-in-hand with the definition of disparities. Inequity describes the systematic and repeating pattern of disparities.”  For KDHE’s page on “what are health disparities”:  http://www.healthequityks.org/health_disparities.html

Strong scientific and medical evidence links “racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities to diet quality or diet healthfulness and to obesity and diet-related diseases.” Neff et al., Food Systems and Public Health Disparities, 4 J. Hunger & Environmental Nutrition 282, 283 (2009).  For example, African Americans die from heart disease at 131 percent of the white rate and from diabetes at 208 percent of the white rate.  Id.  Limited access to nutritious food is a key contributor to such disparities. Unfortunately, Ohioans face a higher rate of “food insecurity”— difficulty in gaining access to healthy food options — than the nation as a whole. USDA, Household Food Security in the United States in 2011, Economic Research Service Report No. 141, at 17,  http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/884525/err141.pdf (accessed Sept. 13, 2012). [JRA1]
[JRA1]According to this 2011 report, Kansas’ numbers were right about at the national level—14.5% experiencing food insecurity in Kansas, vs. 14.7% across the U.S..  There may be more recent info out there now.

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