Too fat in Federal Way? Report examines city's health

Federal Way has the third highest adult obesity rate in King County, with 28.1 percent of the city
Federal Way has the third highest adult obesity rate in King County, with 28.1 percent of the city's adult residents falling into that classification.
— image credit: Public domain photo/Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Federal Way has the third highest adult obesity rate in King County, with 28.1 percent of the city's adult residents falling into that classification.

The finding was one of many shared with the city in a Food Landscape report compiled by Urban Food Link, a policy and planning consulting firm based out of Seattle. It's all part of Federal Way's participation in the county's Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program, which is aimed at increasing the health of King County residents.

Along with the obesity statistic, the Food Landscape report also found that:

• More than 87 percent of Federal Way's land base is more than half a mile from a supermarket

• There are low-income areas in Federal Way that are not within feasible walking distance of a supermarket (i.e., half a mile)

• There are nearly four times as many fast food restaurants and convenience stores compared to the number of supermarkets, small grocery stores and produce vendors combined

• There are 24 fast food restaurants and 15 convenience stores within half a mile of schools within the city limits

• In 2008, there were more than 14,100 residents enrolled in SNAP, the federal food stamp program

As a result of these findings, 12 recommendations were made for the city to pursue to increase Federal Way residents' access to healthy food and healthy choices. The recommendations:

• Establishing a farmers market policy;

• Ensuring the farmers market's viability;

• Establish a community garden policy;

• Facilitating community gardens on private, public land;

• Establish urban agriculture policy;

• Support existing and potential healthy food retailers near residential areas;

• Explore mobile vending opportunities;

• Prioritize transit and pedestrian access to food retail;

• Facilitate small retailers' knowledge of public health permits;

• Create a healthy school food zone;

• Monitor the balance of healthy to less healthy food stores;

• Ensure commitment to healthy food access beyond Communities Putting Prevention to Work funding.

Janet Shull, senior planner for Federal Way, said the next steps to be taken will mostly be done through the city's comprehensive plan and zoning codes, but that any noticeable changes are still a bit off.

"The council directed staff to go forward and look at these recommendations and implement them in comprehensive plan changes," Shull said. "There's no immediate action, other than to look at this further. That's our immediate direction right now."

What most of Shull's work will entail is making sure the city establishes protocol for food access issues within city code.

"Community gardens, urban agriculture, pea patches… Our comprehensive plan and zoning codes don't address food access at all. It is problematic because if folks want to do things, like community gardens, we have to go to the zoning code to see if it's permissible," Shull said. "Down the road, we hope to do some comprehensive plan zoning amendments that make it clear the city is supportive of food access, rather than having to go back to the drawing board every time."

Some other developments related to the CPPW program were the recent bike and pedestrian plan, which the city worked on and held community discussions about.

"Let's Do This King County," an ad campaign aimed at increasing health awareness throughout the county, is also part of CPPW, as are efforts by the county to increase fresh fruits and vegetables in local neighborhood markets.

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