Why Addressing Healthy Food Access is Critical to South Carolina’s Prosperity

Date: August 21, 2013
Category: News

According to a recent study conducted by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnston Foundation, South Carolina ranks 7th nationally when it comes to obesity.

F as in Fat is a national study that examines how obesity threatens America’s future. For 10 years, the annual report has raised awareness about the seriousness of the obesity epidemic, encouraged the creation of a national obesity prevention strategy, and highlighted promising approaches for reversing the epidemic at the state and local level.

• More than 2/3 of American adults are either overweight or obese
• Age plays a factor- obesity rates for 45-64 year-olds are 30% or higher in 43 states, while rates for young adults (18- to 25 year-olds) are below 28% in every state
• Education is also a factor- more than 35% of adults who did not graduate high school are obese, compared to 21% of those who graduated from college
• Income plays a role, too- more than 31% of adults who earn less than $25,000 per year were obese, compared with 25% of those that earn at least $50,000 per year
• Southern states have the highest rates of obesity

South Carolina ranks:
• 7th for obesity among adults
• 13th for obesity among high schoolers
• 2nd for obesity among 10-17 year-olds

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control estimates more than one billion dollars is spent on obesity-related health expenditures annually; this number is expected to increase to $5.3 billion dollars in 2018. If South Carolina were able to halt the increase in the prevalence of obesity at today’s levels, it would save over $3 billion in five years.

As a state, we must come together to address the prevalence of obesity among our residents. One way is by increasing access to healthy, affordable foods. Grocery stores provide the most reliable access to healthy foods at the lowest cost. Adults living in neighborhoods with grocery stores have the lowest rates of obesity at 21%, while adults living in areas that are void of these resources have the highest rates at 32-40% obesity. Adults living in food deserts are 25-46% less likely to have a healthy diet than those living in close proximity to a grocery store (within one mile of their home).

The SC Community Loan Fund is lending its voice to the statewide discussion on healthy food access, serving as the lead agency for the SC Food Access Task Force. The task force, consisting of over 45 members from South Carolina health, policy, non-profit, and governmental agencies, will provide a set of public policy recommendations to address the barriers to equitable food access and set forth an implementation plan for a statewide, state sponsored Healthy Food Finance Initiative (HFFI). A South Carolina HFFI will provide predevelopment, acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, equipment, leasehold improvement, and working capital loans, grants, and tax incentives to food producers, retail operators and distributors located in food deserts.

Creating access to healthy foods is critical to addressing the obesity epidemic facing our state and our country. To learn more about the SC Food Access Task Force or CLF’s Healthy Food Financing Program, please contact Anna Hamilton at anna@sccommunityloanfund.org.

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