Navajo Healthy Stores program to kick off across Navajo Nation

WINDOW ROCK-The Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project (NNSDP) in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University has announced that the Navajo Healthy Stores Program will kick off on Jan. 15 across the Navajo Nation.

The Healthy Stores Program seeks to improve the availability of health food options at five major grocery stores and several smaller stores in and around the communities of Dilkon, Pinon and Tuba City as well as Shiprock, N.M. and Crownpoint, N.M.

The NNSDP and Johns Hopkins University have an agreement with the Basha's stores and other local stores to make healthier food choices available for the community.

"This will be done by encouraging stores to buy, supply, and promote healthier foods for people to choose from," said Hank Haskie, NNSDP senior nutritionist. "We will be working in communities to educate and teach people about choosing, buying, and preparing healthier foods by reading labels, using healthier recipes, seeing food demonstrations, and talking with families at grocery stores."

Haskie said that the first phase of the project would start off Jan. 15. Other stores in Chinle, Kayenta, Page, Winslow, and Window Rock will be in the second phase and will start later on in the year.

Haskie said that people should start noticing posters and flyers in the participating Basha's stores now and at other local participating stores. Once the Healthy Stores Program is implemented, people will be able to notice healthy food labels in aisles where foods are located that have less fat and sugar.

The first phase of the program will promote drinking more water and to curb consumption of drinks that are high in sugar, such as soda pop, fruit drinks, and energy drinks. People will also be encouraged to buy breads that have whole wheat in them rather than plain white bread or dyed wheat bread.

"This is a tremendous undertaking for [NNSDP] for the concern of our people and their health," said Robert Nakai, NNSDP program manager. "Diabetes is on the rise, and in order to change the eating habits of our people, we need help from grocery stores as well as restaurants and food vendors in providing choices of healthier foods for our people. We have been providing messages on radio, newsletters, and newspapers about the effects of diabetes and the need to prevent it, but we all need to do more to share the message with our people of all ages. Eating healthy and exercising are the keys to prevention of this chronic disease."

Recent Indian Health Services report that over 24,000 Navajos now have diabetes with thousands more in pre-diabetes stage and affecting youth up to 19 years of age.

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