During a Zócalo Public Square event on Monday evening, an outstanding panel will tackle a huge question: Why is the Central Valley sick?
By now, we all know the statistics:
- Despite its agricultural bounty, the San Joaquín Valley is one of the poorest regions in the country. And despite growing the food that nourishes the nation, the region has high rates of food insecurity and obesity.
- Our environment is also sick, and that doesn’t help people’s health. Many low-income communities have contaminated drinking water. We have some of the dirtiest air in the nation, and an epidemic of asthma. Rural communities are exposed to harmful pesticides.
- We have a critical shortage of primary care doctors and specialists. But simply adding more doctors to the region – without addressing the other social, economic and environmental factors – could prove nothing but a Band-Aid.
So, what can be done to improve the health of Valley residents?
In the post, ‘This Place is Sick,’ now on Zócalo’s website, I suggested that low-income residents need better access to the healthy fruits and vegetables grown in this region:
The prescription to improve the health of the San Joaquín Valley must begin with the area’s greatest asset: agriculture. I have covered great initiatives intended to make locally grown produce more accessible—including school farm stands, flea markets that accept EBT for produce, conversions of neighborhood liquor stores into corner stores featuring fresh produce, and the development of school gardens, where families can grow the products they are culturally accustomed to.
These efforts require little government funding, yet could improve the health of San Joaquín Valley residents. There is also an opportunity for innovative collaboration between the agriculture industry and health organizations.
I’m very interested to hear how panelists Sarah Reyes, Central Valley Program Manager of The California Endowment, John Capitman, executive director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute, and Edward Palacios, CEO of San Joaquín Valley Rehabilitation, answer the question.
And I’m interested to hear your ideas! Join the discussion on Monday (May 7) at 6:30 p.m. at Arte Américas, 1630 Van Ness Ave., in Fresno. Or add your suggestions in the comment section below.
Zócalo, previously on Harvesting Health: