Questions to Gauge Candidate Support for Active Living & Healthy Eating Policies

By Liz Duda, with contributions from Lynn Caldwell, Dr. David F. Keely, Ben Ullman, Janet Wojcik and Steve Yaffe

May 11, 2020 (York County, SC) SC’s primary elections will be on June 9, 2020. Foremost on many people’s minds is the COVID-19 impact – on our health and economy. People with serious underlying medical conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, or severe obesity, seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19[1]. Already too many people have lost jobs and don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Local farmers lost their customer base and crops were wasted when restaurants and hotels closed. Not everyone in York County can get to a supermarket or farmers market. And as people were forced to stay home, taking safe walks or bike rides in our neighborhoods became even more important. These issues show that the ESMMYC focus on making the healthy choice the easy choice in York County remains critical. So now is the best time to reach out to candidates running for elected office to understand their positions on policies related to active living and access to healthy foods!

York County residents can have an impact if we voice the importance to our community of active living and healthy eating. Candidates who learn about these issues now will be more likely to support related policies once elected. Eat Smart Move More York County suggests the below questions that you can ask candidates.

Ask the candidates questions about policies that promote safe pedestrian and cycling access. We hope that candidates and our community will think about infrastructure, intersection visibility, and policies to support people walking and rolling safely.

In the past year in York County, seven people walking or biking, both children and adults, have been killed. In SC year to date, 44 pedestrians and 2 bicyclists have been killed[2].  Most of York County lacks continuous pathways on arterial or collector roads.

  1. What will you do to support safe walking and increase neighborhood walkability? To support safe cycling?
  2. How would you reorient policy to support safe walking and cycling?
  3. What are your views on prioritizing infrastructure, intersection visibility, and policies in support of safe walking and cycling?
  4. Do you support comprehensive Safe Routes to School initiatives to increase physical activity and safety, particularly in light of our continuing local childhood obesity epidemic[3]?

Learn candidate positions on policies that impact community food systems and farms. We hope that candidates and our community will think about food, farming, food security, community gardening and the environment.

Some York County residents live in food deserts (areas with limited access to healthy, affordable food) and food swamps (areas with an abundance of fast food, junk-food outlets, convenience stores and liquor stores outnumber healthy food options). Before the current public health crisis, 11% of adults and 15% of children lived with food insecurity[4]. With unemployment skyrocketing, the number of people worried about their next meal has multiplied.

  1. What will you do to reduce food insecurity?
  2. How will you help make local food resources more accessible to all members of our community?

Demand for local food now greatly exceeds supply. Food policy councils are community-based coalitions that help promote stronger local food systems. Food hubs are centrally-located facilities that facilitate the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and marketing of locally/regionally-produced food products, benefiting every link in the supply chain (See: Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Community Scope, 2019. Also see the SC Department of Agriculture-sponsored report, “Making Small Farms Big Business,” 2013, which includes policy recommendations that the state can take to increase the local food economy, including the development of regional food hubs and community food councils.)[5]

  1. What will you do to encourage new and beginning farmers, and support their access to land and resources, to help them succeed?
  2. Which policies or programs do you support that help farmers keep their products cold, distribute them locally, or get more local food into the homes of hungry families?
  3. Will you support SC’s state and local food-policy councils to improve our food system? How?
  4. Will you support SC food hubs, including our local food hub, so that farmers, particularly beginning farmers, can expand their businesses? What form will that support take?
  5. Do you support a legislative push to make the Healthy Bucks program permanent?
  6. Do you support policies that limit the types of unhealthy foods that can be placed in vending machines on county or state property?

Up to 40% of our nation’s food ends up in landfills[6]. In response, SC implemented the “Don’t Waste Food SC” campaign, which brings together public and private-sector stakeholders to share knowledge, coordinate resources, and work together to help reduce food waste and increase food recovery statewide.

  1. How are you, or do you plan on, working locally with this program to reduce food waste and increase food recovery?

[1] Source: CDC, Groups at Higher Risk for Severe Illness, retrieved 05/11/2020.

[2] Source: SC Department of Public Safety, SC Daily Traffic Fatality Count, retrieved 05/11/2020.

[3] Source: America’s Health Rankings, Health of Women and Children, and Safe Routes to School, retrieved 05/11/2020.

[4] Source: Feeding America Research retrieved 05/11/2020.

[5] For more information and questions, see the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s “A Voter’s Guide to Questions on Farm & Food Policy in the Carolinas,” Questions for 2020 Candidates.

[6] Source: National Resource Defense Council, Food Waste, retrieved 05/11/2020.

About the contributors: Lynn Caldwell is co-founder of the Farmers Market Management Association and a member of the ESMMYC leadership team. Dr. David F. Keely is semi-retired from family medicine, part of Tobacco-Free York County and on the ESMMYC leadership team. Ben Ullman is co-chair of the Bike/Ped Coalition of York County(BPCYC) and part of the Tega Cay Forever commission. Janet Wojcik, Professor of Exercise Science at Winthrop University, is co-chair of the ActivEarth Task Force and on the ESMMYC leadership team. Steve Yaffe, Yaffe Mobility Consulting, is a member of the BPCYC. Liz Duda is chair of ESMMYC and co-chair of the BPCYC.