Grand Rapids, Michigan likes it’s name flows forward in community health as we is we create safe bike and walking paths and host very cool events that engage residents to move more and eat healthier. Insert events like the Color run, Art Prize and Gran Fondo, and food venues like the Urban Market and the YMCA Veggie Mobile. Perhaps someday Whole Foods will also join in if we click our calorie burning heals together 3 times and promise to eat more fruits and veggies.
Yet like the river, our health initiatives sometimes rush past areas that need to move forward as well. One of my favorite things to do after work is to detox with a nice long run. Most recently, I captured our city in transition as I beat the path through the industrial areas, along the river, over the bridge to Riverside Park I ran.
The obvious signs of a food desert where our community has limited access to fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains or nourishing foods in general. Instead, empty calories also known as foods with poor nutritional quality are offered at rock bottom prices. In this mix resides liquor stores and fast food chains.
Billboards litter the path with fun messaging targeted towards kids like this Snack Planet ad promoting the return of Twinkie, Ho Hos and Fruit Pies. The website offers “out of this world coupons” on King Dongs, powdered doughnuts and all things “loaded with flavor and fun to eat.” MIA from these signs are healthy food choices.
Messages targeting teens include physically attractive, young people enjoying the night life while drinking various flavors of lower cost, sugar rich soda that light up the Grand Rapid’s sky line.
Billboards targeting adults include this McDonald’s campaign “More to Love”. It promotes the new Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie from MacDonald’s containing 44 grams of sugar (10 teaspoons of sugar) with 6% calcium a far cry from the 33% daily value found in traditional dairy and low-fat yogurt alternatives. Had I run in the opposite direction, towards other parts of our urban community, the billboards would have been the same, food deserts would have continued and access to safe, walking paths and bike routes would have become more vacant.
Grand Rapids, Michigan is a city in healthy transition and we need to ensure our messaging and opportunities for healthier living don’t rush past areas in need.
Categories: Nutrition & Wellness