We know that many of the leading chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer have strong, undeniable links to what we eat.
Minnesota diets, particularly those high in calories and unhealthy foods and beverages, are contributing to surging health care costs and lower work productivity. To address these challenges, coordination and long terms strategies are needed to create a food system that ensures a vibrant economy and means greater health for all Minnesotans.
Minnesota followed the lead of four other states including Iowa, Michigan, Oregon, and West Virginia in developing a Food Charter. The Food Charter puts health at the center of policies and systems, in order to achieve the positive changes it envisions. The Food Charter came about as the result of thousands of Minnesotans worked together to map a future that supports healthy, prosperous communities across the state. This included involvement from leaders in health, agriculture, economic development, local and state government, philanthropy, and research, and at its core it offers steps that can be taken at local, state, and federal levels to increase everyone’s access to affordable, healthy food. From farm to fork, the Food Charter offers concrete ways to build prosperous communities through changes to policies and systems at all scales.
The Food Charter offers a detailed roadmap designed to guide policymakers and community leaders in providing Minnesotans with equal access to affordable, safe, and healthy food regardless of where they live. It is broken down into five sections: food skills, food affordability, food availability, food accessibility, and food infrastructure. Each section defines a key part of access to healthy food, the challenges that affect these parts, and finally strategies that can be implemented to achieve positive change. While not necessarily an exhaustive list, these strategies offer the most promising and most acceptable avenues for change, according to the thousands of Minnesotans who provided feedback to the Food Charter.
WHY A MINNESOTA FOOD CHARTER?
Evidence and thousands of Food Charter participants told us that:
- To reduce rates of obesity and related chronic diseases, we must comprehensively change our food environments. These changes will extend from farm to table, and at all the points in between.
- To prevent unhealthy behaviors impacting on the long-term economic and further burdens on public health.
- Strengthening key aspects of Minnesota’s food supply for all our residents will help support resilient, healthy communities and a vital food and farm economy.
- The need for equity runs through the Food Charter as in Minnesota, communities with limited resources do not enjoy the same rates of good health, healthy food access, and economic prosperity as the rest of the state.
AT A GLANCE
- Health: Two out of three Minnesotans are overweight or obese. Many low-income Minnesotans are obese with other diet-related problems, including one out of three young children.
- Hunger: Approximately 3.5 million visits to food shelves. More than twice the number of Minnesotans visited food shelves in 2013 than 13 years ago.
- Economic Impact: $2.8 billion in obesity-related healthcare costs per year and $17 billion in lost productivity and absenteeism due to unhealthy workers per year.
- Healthy Food Access: Minnesota has fewer supermarkets per capita than most states, ranking in the bottom third of states nationwide. This leaves nearly 900,000 Minnesota residents — including more than 200,000 children — live in lower-income communities with insufficient grocery store access.