The American Heart Association (AHA) and Widener University have created a structured plan to improve access to healthy foods in the city of Chester through several of its food pantries. The AHA aims to increase the number of healthy options available at the pantries and implement a labeling program to highlight healthy options. The proposed healthy labeling initiative would identify foods that are characterized as heart healthy according to AHA nutrition guidelines. Examples of foods that would be marked include produce, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. AHA has a healthy labeling program for grocery stores called the Heart Check Certification Program, which was created to help consumers choose healthy options at stores. The Heart Check Certification program uses specific guidelines to label foods that meet the AHA nutrition standards.  The Heart Check program helps individuals make healthy choices –a study showed that people who reported choosing foods that met the Heart Check Certification were more likely to eat healthier and have fewer risk factors for cardiac disease.
We want to create a similar program for food labeling at local food pantries in Chester. Labeling foods that are heart healthy would enable all guests of the pantry to easily recognize and select healthy options for themselves and their families. We will categorize and label the foods using the AHA nutrition guidelines. The labeling initiative will also focus on identifying and limiting foods containing large amounts of sodium or added sugars. AHA recommends keeping sugar intake to no more than 9 g a day for men and 6 g a day for women. Also, AHA recommends limiting sodium intake to 1,500 mg or less per day in order to promote heart health and reduce risk of high blood pressure.  We want to begin making positive changes and implementing nutrition labeling in Chester food pantries in order to make healthy choices easy choices to make!