Obesity is a serious health issue affecting almost 1 in 5 children and 1 in 3 adults, putting people at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. In 2009, an MGH Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) conducted in Chelsea identified obesity prevention and the promotion of healthy living as leading health priorities for the city.
Access to healthy foods—fresh produce, meats and other healthy foods—can also be an issue for residents in low-income areas like Chelsea. The Healthy Chelsea Coalition is committed to addressing these concerns through a number of programs and activities.
Instituting a Trans Fat Ban
Chelsea instituted a 100% trans-fat ban in 2013. We were the first city in the country to institute this most progressive trans-fat ban. All other cities that had implemented a ban had allowed for trace amounts of artificial trans-fat in food, but Chelsea prohibited it completely.
We also worked with restaurant chains such as McDonalds, Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts to ensure their adherence to the ban.
A unique partnership has been forged between Healthy Chelsea, Chelsea School Food Services, Chelsea Public Schools and Northbound Ventures to continuously improve school meals in the district.
Major projects include:
- Monthly meetings with this group to analyze participation and nutrition data and check in on ongoing goals.
- The Youth Food Movement (YFM) internship program, which allows high school and middle school students to advocate for higher quality food in their school.
- An annual school food satisfaction survey at Chelsea High School organized by YFM.
- Regular cafeteria taste tests in all Chelsea public school cafeterias to try Harvest of the Month recipes and other new items.
Results to date have been striking. Lunch participation at CHS has increased to more than 75 percent, far exceeding our original goal set in 2013 to increase participation from 39 to 45 percent. This increased participation has been accompanied by improvement in nutritional content. During the 2015-2016 school year (our “intervention year” at CHS), we saw a marked increase in the percentage of low-sodium, low-saturated fat meals chosen by students (green) as well as a significant decrease in the less healthy options chosen (red).
1) Identifying and removing high sodium/sat fat items like cheeseburgers and hot dogs (red zone)
2) Identifying ingredient substitutions for menu items that could be improved (yellow zone)
3) Increasing production (and, thus, selection) of healthier, student tested items like the BBQ chicken (green zone)
Healthy Chelsea FoodCorps service members have helped build and teach in gardens at the ELC, Berkowitz, Kelly, Sokolowski and Hooks schools over the past couple of years.
During science classes and after school programs, students have access to hands-on learning (and snacking) in their garden.
Working with Local Business
Healthy Chelsea staff worked with local corner store owners, through the “corner store project,” providing guidance and display items such as baskets and refrigerators, so that fresh fruits and vegetables are more appealingly displayed at the front of the stores, thereby increasing healthier purchases.
Healthy Chelsea, through our membership, helps to promote local farmers’ markets and incentives for WIC recipients.
Addressing Food Insecurity and Access to Healthy Food
In March 2018, Healthy Chelsea and the Chelsea Hunger Network organized the Chelsea Healthy and Affordable Food (CHAF) Summit, inviting community leaders and institutions from within and outside of the city to address food insecurity and access to healthy food in Chelsea. The half day event brought together 70 people to learn about the city’s socio-economic and food relief situation, interact with a panel presenting diverse options, participate in round-table discussions to delve into causes and possible solutions and to network. This summit represents the first step in bringing about sustainable change to these issues. Subcommittees are now being formed to work on creating new resources, partnerships and solutions.