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In The Bank

Posted on Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

by Diane Alpern RD, LDN, Food Bank Nutrition Coordinator

Nutrition Coordinator Diane Alpern visits Lorraine's Soup Kitchen & Pantry in Chicopee to provide a healthy food sampling and some helpful cooking tips.

Nutrition Coordinator Diane Alpern visits Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry in Chicopee to provide a healthy food sampling and some helpful cooking tips.

In a recent government study, it was reported that researchers found that obesity among children ages 2 to 5 decreased to 8%, from 14% a decade ago. More broadly, health officials last year reported slight drops in obesity for low-income preschoolers in 18 states.

Obesity rates are typically higher amongst lower income populations because there are constant struggles between buying healthy food, paying utility bills, obtaining secure housing and the cost of health care. When it comes to food, the focus will tend to be on obtaining adequate calories so they won’t feel hungry. However, many of these diets of processed foods are high in fat, sugar and salt. Unfortunately, children often bear the brunt of a diet lacking fruits and vegetables, and filled with refined carbohydrates, processed foods, saturated fats and sugary snacks. This predisposes them to becoming overweight and developing chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease at a very early age.

The Nutrition team at The Food Bank conducts free nutrition outreach to staff and participants of our partner agencies throughout Western Massachusetts to teach their clients that it doesn’t have to cost more money to eat healthy foods. We lead workshops at after-school programs for children, teens and mothers of young children. In these workshops, children participate in creating a tasty meal or snack, and share their new ideas and skills with their parents. By helping the head of a household learn how to provide healthier foods to their children at no higher cost, we are able to positively impact the quality of children’s diets. We are passionate about teaching children to eat healthier and reduce their risk of developing obesity and its associated health risks.

We also conduct extended nutrition workshops, which are free of charge, to target the concerns of each organization’s clientele:

  • • We run supermarket tours using the Share Our Strength model of Cooking Matters at the Store® to teach people how to understand unit pricing, read food labels, understand portion sizes, choose whole grains, and cut down on salt and sugar intake.
  • • We provide easy to prepare, nutritious recipes to food pantries to distribute, demonstrating how easy it can be to cook from scratch using common food pantry items and make delicious vegetable dishes with fresh produce.
  • • Our popular food sampling programs at food pantries and Brown Bag Programs for Elders enable people to taste a dish, enjoy it and then pick up the recipe.
  • • Nutrition articles on a wide variety of topics written by our staff are sent out weekly to our partner agencies and provide helpful nutrition tips and recipes. They are also posted on our website under Nutrition Tips.

The Food Bank is committed to strengthening our network of emergency meal sites and leading the community, as we work together to put an end to hunger. If you or your organization would like to learn more about these services that we offer, or would like to schedule one of our programs, please contact our Nutrition Department at (413) 247-9738.

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