About 13% of Western Mass. residents are food insecure, a rate higher than any other food bank service area in the state.
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts serves more than 108,000 individuals facing food insecurity, 33 percent of whom are children under the age of 18. Not eating enough healthy foods can have devastating effects on a child’s health, growth and development—both physical and mental.
About three years ago, we started Intergenerational Community Meals, a healthy cooking workshop series targeted at families with members of all ages. The workshops cover topics related to nutrition, healthy eating habits, cooking at home, shopping on a budget, and physical activity. During each class, a meal is prepared, and everyone is involved in its preparation. And at the end of each class, participating families get to take home a bag of groceries so they can replicate the recipe at home.
Recently, our Education Coordinator received a package outlining a national initiative, led by Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind Sesame Street focused on improving the lives of children. This initiative, called “Food for Thought,” discusses the benefits of healthy eating, and dispels the myth that eating well is prohibitively expensive. The program is designed to help families with children ages 2 to 8 that have uncertain or limited access to affordable and healthy food. It also works to raise awareness with the public about food insecurity in the United States. Topics and tips include: Family Food Talk, which offers ways for families to talk about food and any related concerns families might have; Healthy Foods on a Budget; Healthy Choices Anytime; Making Connections for support; and a bunch of awesome Sesame Street recipe cards. (We’ve included a recipe for a Cheesy Bean-and-Rice Casserole below!)
With a few simple tips and some smart guidance, any family can eat healthy. Visit the “Food for Thought” website to learn more about tips you can use at home, and even how to get the kids involved. If you’d like more information about an upcoming session of Intergenerational Community Meals, call The Food Bank at 413.247.9738, or email foodbank [at] foodbankwma [dot] org.
makes 4 servings
3 cups brown rice, cooked
1 (16-oz.) can kidney or pinto beans, drained
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 tablespoon flour
3 oz. low-fat cheddar cheese, grated
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice, beans, onion, garlic, cottage cheese, and flour
3. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish; top with the grated cheese.
4. Bake covered for 30 minutes and uncoveered for an additional 5-10 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.
Note: For spicier flavor, stir in 2-4 tablespoons of chopped jalapeño peppers before baking.(1) Comment