Tag Archives: Eat Fresh

Chester County Food Bank’s Sustained Commitment to Nutrition

When it comes to food and dietary choices, many of us have learned that it’s more about quality than quantity. But for many of our neighbors in Chester County, it’s really about both. Quantity — that is, simply enough food on the table, day after day — is the primary struggle for many families and individuals facing food insecurity. When meals are unpredictable or scarce, quality often isn’t even a luxury that can be factored into the equation.

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we’re aiming to change that. No matter where people are getting their food from, we believe they shouldn’t have to sacrifice nutrition and quality when it comes to the food they’re putting into their bodies.

For many years, we haven’t accepted soda and other sweetened beverages or candy donations in large quantities, and have also worked nonstop to find innovative ways to provide fresh food to our clients via our Fresh2You Mobile Market, the Fresh2You Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program, Taste It! and Eat Fresh educational platforms, Raised Bed Garden Program and more.


“There is a ton of scientific research and proof that diet-related diseases disproportionately affect people in economically challenged areas,” Denise Sheehan, Director of Strategic Initiatives explained. “Our goal at the Food Bank is to not add to that problem, and to expand access to what people on a limited income can afford.”

During our recently conducted community food security assessment, we gathered feedback from over 1,000 of our food pantry members through surveys and focus groups. We received an overwhelming response that pantry members are concerned about their health and the most important foods when coming to the pantry are fresh produce, quality protein and healthy dairy items. So over the course of the next few years, our goal is to provide more of these items, which can often be higher in price, and so out of reach for many people. Then, with those items taken care of, our clients can readjust their food budgets and have more to spend on items of their choosing to fill in around what we provide.

“For instance,” Sheehan said, “we’re hopefully going to distribute less of the highly processed canned items which are typically loaded with high fructose corn syrup added sugar and sodium and replace them with the simple ingredients and recipes.”

To start, CCFB is going to monitor the foods that we purchase with donated dollars and government funds more closely to be sure they’re as nutritionally impactful as possible while also meeting our clients’ expressed needs. Of course, we still want to provide like cereals (low in added sugar), fruit in juice, and canned proteins like tuna, chicken and beans, but are going to pass by options that include high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat) and excessive added sugars. (As far as food drives and donations are concerned, we are still happy to receive items from our most wanted food items list)


We’re excited to embark on this next step of our journey to help fight hunger and food insecurity in Chester County. If you have any questions about our commitment to nutrition, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask!

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

Photos: Chester County Food Bank

 

Meet the Community Partner: La Comunidad Hispana

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, our mission is to end food insecurity in the communities in our county. It’s an ambitious goal — the problem of hunger is a complex one, touching on economics, access to food, nutrition and cooking education, advocacy, legislative policy and so much more. While our organization is going nine years strong and has accomplished so much during that time, we definitely can’t tackle these issues alone. It’s thanks to our strong bonds and relationships with community partners that we’re able to continue reaching our neighbors in need in effective, sustainable ways.

One such community partner is La Comunidad Hispana (LCH), a diverse, bilingual Federally Qualified Health Center in southern Chester County. Its mission is to “change lives by serving southern Chester County as the leading provider of integrated health and community services.” Founded in 1973 by Peggy Harris and Margarita Quiñones with the support of Kennett Square residents, clergy and advocates, LCH set forth to serve the needs of the primarily Latino population who came to the region to find jobs in the mushroom industry. LCH was established as a place where vulnerable adults and families could go for health and medical issues large and small.

Now, more than 40 years later, the committed, passionate team at LCH continues this mission at various sites: its Health and Community Services office and Dental Center in Kennett Square, its Community Health Center in Oxford and its brand-new Women’s Health Center in West Grove. The Women’s Health Center is an exciting new development for LCH; all of its women’s health services will be provided out of this office, and with an additional provider added to the staff, the organization will be able to serve more women than ever.

CCFB’s relationship with LCH began about five years ago, when we started our EatFresh program. During that time, we sought organizations to partner with, specifically health clinics in the county.

“LCH was one of those, and the idea was that they were connecting with food-insecure families whom we believed we could teach some basic healthy cooking options to and also be able to give them some fresh produce at the end of each class,” said Wendy Gaynor, director of Food Security Initiatives at Chester County Food Bank. “It turns out that the people [served by LCH] have a wealth of knowledge surrounding cooking, so what we’re now doing is building community. They’re coming for the produce, for the connection and to have an experience together. They get to come together with other people and enjoy good food.”

We’re still working with LCH on EatFresh, and are pleased to announce that we’re extending our partnership with them to offer the Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program to some of the families there. Families are identified through the clinic and are given “prescriptions,” which are like vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh produce at CCFB’s Fresh2You Truck.

These components of our partnership exemplify just what makes LCH so special. It’s not simply there to administer medical treatment and services — aims to serve the holistic health of the families and individuals it serves. One example of this is LCH’s Family Fitness Program. It piloted this program two years ago, with the support of the Edna G. Kynett Memorial Foundation, and has been such a success, LCH decided to continue it.

“The goal of the program is to provide intensive health interventions for families with children at risk of chronic disease (such as heart disease and diabetes), based on overweight/obese status,” explained LeeAnn Riloff, director of Development at LCH. “We enroll the entire family into the program and over the course of a year, offer them regular clinical check-ins, health education, consultation with a nutritionist, free healthy food bags and fitness equipment and deeply discounted family YMCA memberships.” The families also receive access to LCH’s special programs, including walking/running groups and the FVRx partnership with CCFB. LCH also hosts three raised beds that are part of our Raised Bed Garden Program — these help to supplement the fresh produce CCFB brings to on-site EatFresh classes.

“These food bank programs are critical elements of the program for us,” said LeeAnn. “Our nutritionist can give families advice to eat lots of fruits and vegetables instead of loads of empty carbs, but unless they can access the produce and know how to use it, it isn’t all that useful!”

La Comunidad Hispana is just one of the many community partners we work with, and is such an important resource for the communities of southern Chester County. To learn more about its mission, visit its website and Facebook page.

Want to learn more? Check out our mission video, sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

Featured photo: La Comunidad Hispana; all other photos, top to bottom: La Comunidad Hispana, Chester County Food Bank (next two photos), La Comunidad Hispana

EatFresh a Success! Looking Into 2018

The end of the year is always a great time for reflection — a time to look back on the successes and struggles across the calendar and make plans for the year ahead. As 2017 draws to a close, here at the Chester County Food Bank, we’re taking time to consider the progress of our community program, EatFresh.

This educational/hands-on initiative offers cooking and nutrition classes for youth and adults who are at risk of food insecurity. Over the course of six weeks, participants learn and practice cooking skills, as well as how to select healthy recipes and get their hands on fresh produce, whole grains and other healthy staples. At the end of each class, participants can take home the fresh produce from the session to continue the healthy eating at home!

The goal: By regularly working closely with nutritious ingredients and trying out different cooking techniques, participants will be less wary of trying new things and more likely to integrate healthy cooking and eating choices into everyday life.

In 2017, EatFresh classes were offered at La Comunidad Hispana (LCH) in Kennett Square, as well as ChesPenn Health Services in Coatesville. For the 2017 season, Catie Hargraves, CCFB’s food security initiatives program associate, taught the LCH beginner and advanced classes, and Heather Leach, a community member who assists with both our EatFresh and Fresh2You programs, taught both sessions at ChesPenn. The classes were offered in a bilingual fashion, with English and Spanish recipes and handouts provided for participants at both locations.

At the end of each of our six-week EatFresh sessions, we surveyed the participants to see if the progress we see among them each week translates to tangible changes outside of the classroom. It’s always exciting to see significant results from these surveys, especially as we’re wrapping up the year and preparing for next year. One participant at ChesPenn said, “I had a personal goal to change my eating habits for health reason, and EatFresh helped me to meet that goal this year.” Check out some of the recent results and see the success for yourself!

Our post survey showed:

  • 95 percent of EatFresh participants tried a new fruit or vegetable through their class experience.
  • After the EatFresh classes, 20 percent more participants said they always think about healthy food choices when deciding what to feed their families.
  • EatFresh classes resulted in a 17 percent increase in participant confidence when it came to helping their families eat healthier.
  • There was a 13 percent increase in participants adjusting the recipes they make at home to include more fruits and veggies.
  • When focus group participants responded to a question asking for suggestions to improve the program, all responses included a call for classes to be held more often!

 

As we look to 2018, we hope to add more classes and keep spreading the joys of healthy food and nutritious home cooking to more children and adults!

Want to learn moreSign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate foodfunds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community.

Emily Kovach

Trying New Foods with Taste It! & Eat Fresh

Trying new foods can be intimidating for adults and children alike. After all, wariness about unfamiliar foods is one way our brain balances our innate sense of curiosity as humans. Without that little voice that says Wait, are you really sure you want to eat that green thing? we’d run a much higher risk of ingesting harmful or toxic substances.

However, this same instinct can create a big roadblock when it comes to people, especially kids, branching out from their comfort zone and trying vegetables, grains and other nutritious foods that they’ve never had before. Repeat exposure helps new things seem less peculiar and increases the chances that someone might try something they once turned down. And if those new foods are paired with more recognizable ingredients, all the better. Beets, for example, might seem less “weird” if when they’re roasted, sauced with a tasty dressing and tossed with tangy, salty feta cheese. This is the impetus behind CCFB’s, Taste It! & Eat Fresh.

Taste It! has been part of Chester County Food Bank’s outreach programming for the past three years. The food demonstrations, offered as a facet of the Food Bank’s Food Security programming, allow people an opportunity to try foods they might not otherwise consider. When we receive an abundance of a specific vegetable, such as kale, a Taste It! volunteer will search through our recipe database, prepare a delicious dish and offer small samples to pantry clients and customers at our Fresh2You Mobile Market. The proof of a successful Taste It! demo is when we see people adding fruits and vegetables that they’ve just sampled to their baskets.

Volunteers are at the core of Taste It! The CCFB staff trains volunteers on not only basic food safety and presentation skills, but also gives tips on client engagement. Volunteers are then able to prepare nutritious recipe samples and share basic information about how to cook healthy food on a limited budget.  If you’re interested, please find more information and volunteer application here.

Eat Fresh is a series of cooking and nutrition classes that CCFB, in partnership with local community organizations, offers to provide youth and adults at risk for food insecurity with the tools and confidence to choose and cook healthy food for themselves and their families. Over the course of six weeks, each Eat Fresh participant practices hands-on cooking skills, learns how to select, decode and understand healthy recipes, and becomes acquainted with a range of fresh produce, whole grains and other healthy staples. To keep the momentum up at home, participants are welcome to take home the fresh fruits and veggies featured in class after each session.

We can see concrete evidence through Eat Fresh that when people are exposed to new foods and given the tools to cook simple, nutritious foods, they feel empowered to take a chance and discover all kinds of new foods.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

Photos: Ed Williams