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Your Environment. Your Health.

Occidental College

Health Food, Healthy Schools and Healthy Communities

Robert Gottlieb

Project Description:

The social and built environments affect food consumption patterns that influence disease occurrence and public health. Health disparities arise when environmental factors make it difficult to access healthy food choices. Access factors that influence dietary choices include the cost, availability and physical accessibility of healthy foods. Residents of neighborhoods that lack affordable sources of healthy food may experience higher rates of overweight and diabetes, resulting from differences in the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains versus foods that are high in calories, added fat, and sugars, and low in other nutrients. The local nutrition environments created by such factors can, however, be changed if community members are actively involved in shaping community nutrition norms and influencing policies that increase the availability of affordable healthy foods. Such proactive intervention has the potential to reduce the health disparities for overweight and diabetes that plague low-income communities and communities of color. The goal of the project is to facilitate positive community-driven changes in local nutrition environments in schools and communities that suffer disproportionately from diet-related poor health conditions. The project evaluates access factors in those schools and communities; raises nutrition, environmental and food access awareness; develops and implement intervention strategies; and assesses the environmental and policy impact of those strategies. Activities include the training of low-income African-American and Latino students, parents, and residents to undertake community and school food assessments; the development of appropriate and feasible action plans to address poor nutrition environments and policies; and the creation of local community nutrition advisory councils to mobilize efforts to move intervention strategies forward. The project hypotheses are: 


  1. through participation in community and school food assessments and the development of community nutrition councils, school and community members will have increased awareness and knowledge of the health disparities related to lack of access to health-promoting foods; and 
  2. increased awareness and the development of community-driven strategies for environmental and policy change will in turn lead to improved nutrition environments that reduce risk factors for overweight and diabetes.



  • Susan S. Gilliland, Ph.D., M.P.H, R.N.
    Research Associate
  • Nancy Halpern Ibrahim
    Associate Director
    Esperanza Community Housing Corporation
  • Carlton Davenport
    Associate Director
    Blazer Youth Foundation

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