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State's health has declined since the adoption of the ‘Healthy NC 2020’ plan

The pilot Edible Campus garden is located behind Davis Library and hosts a number of fruits and vegetables that are ready or nearly ready for harvest, including oregano and chives.
The pilot Edible Campus garden is located behind Davis Library and hosts a number of fruits and vegetables that are ready or nearly ready for harvest, including oregano and chives.

Since the implementation of the Healthy NC 2020 improvement plan in 2010, a recent progress report from the North Carolina Division of Public Health showed the state's health has actually declined.

North Carolina identified 13 major health focus areas and established 41 health objectives and targets to meet by the year 2020. One goal was to increase the number of adults consuming one or more fruit per day from the baseline value of 59.2 percent. The state is now at 56.7 percent, and the goal is 69.7 percent.

“We had measurable targets, and we are nowhere close to meeting them,” said Luis Toledo, a policy analyst at the NC Justice Center who released a report on the program. “This affects everyone across the board regardless of race, religion, gender and what corner of the state they live in."

Toledo said the state is not tackling these goals in a way that measures progress, and there’s a lack of funding in many of these areas.

“We need people in the state to be healthy, to live productive lives and to contribute to our society and economy,” Toledo said.

Analysis of new data in the report shows North Carolina has not made any progress on two of its physical and nutrition health objectives since 2008. 

While the state had these goals, funding for public health initiatives has decreased by 29 percent since 2008, Toledo said.

“At the same time that we have cut public health funding, our population has grown by 11 percent — that’s almost a million people,” Toledo said.

While lawmakers are dealing with this issue at a statewide level, student groups at UNC have worked to mitigate health issues they see on campus.

Laura Mindlin, coordinator for Edible Campus UNC, said the group has an educational role in making students aware of North Carolina’s health crisis, which includes promoting access to healthy foods for students on campus.

She said she hopes students and faculty at UNC will feel comfortable picking produce from the Edible Campus gardens.

“We hope to engage more and more students in our garden work days, so we maximize the amount of produce we are growing and have those involved feel comfortable growing food on their own one day — or at least supporting local, sustainable growers,” she said.

Mindlin said Edible Campus UNC donates over half of its produce to Carolina Cupboard, an on-campus food pantry that is now able to provide fresh produce for the first time, and The Sonder Market, which sells produce on campus from the main Edible Campus Garden.

The Sonder Market started five years ago to provide fresh food on campus at an affordable cost, said Sarah Smith, the group's co-president.

"We are working to provide healthier snack items to students that they can buy — that aren't super expensive — on campus,” she said.

A lot of options for UNC students are not fresh and accessible, Smith said.

Not all students can afford a large meal plan, and it can be difficult for those who live on campus without a car to get to a nearby grocery store or other locations that offer healthy options.

“We use locations for sell days on campus, but other than that, we haven't really gotten any support from the Union or Carolina Housing for a location on campus," Smith said.

She said The Sonder Market does all of its baking, storage and preparation off-campus, which is expensive.

“We applied for space in the Union even just to have a refrigerator, and that request was declined,” Smith said.

There are eighteen months left for the state to meet its health goals from 2010.

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