Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Go Further with Food

Submitted by Guest Blogger Shawn Paton, Director, Volunteer Engagement, Community Building & Investments, United Way of Pierce County



In Pierce County, where obesity and chronic disease diagnosis rates are higher than the national average, nutrition education is an important piece to increasing the health and well-being of our residents. Health-related issues directly attributable to food insecurity include: asthma, COPD, type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis, gout, lupus, fibromyalgia, as well as anemia and hospitalizations for children. Indirect health costs related to hunger include dental issues, increased doctor and emergency room visits and increased need for prescription medications.

What contributes to poor nutrition?

One in six households in our community cannot afford enough food for all household members to lead healthy lives.

Some families lack transportation, so they are unable to access grocery stores or even food banks. For those living in food deserts-- where the closest food source is a corner store or mini-mart featuring high priced, unhealthy food options-- it is difficult to find affordable, high-quality fresh food. For some, the barrier is knowledge about how to plan meals, shop on a budget or prepare healthy meals at home.

In the past, cooking skills were passed down from generation to generation, but this trend has been broken, with many parents working multiple jobs to make ends meet leaving little time for home-cooked meals, resulting in millions of people across the country lacking even the most basic food preparation skills. The Hunger-Free Pierce County Collaborative is working together to help all Pierce County residents lead healthier lives through nutrition education projects.

Colorful Cooking Made Easy is a nutrition education program featuring trained volunteers who perform cooking demonstrations at local food banks, teach cooking and nutrition classes and lead grocery store tours all designed to help families learn how to shop for and prepare healthy meals from scratch.  Skills taught during Colorful Cooking Made Easy programming include meal planning, shopping on a budget, healthy cooking and help to make healthy eating a daily reality.

The hunger collaborative food bank partners are also working to help individuals and families understand the importance of selecting healthier food options by making it easy for food bank visitors to find those options among the various products available. Colorful Cooking Made Easy food bank cooking demonstrators take fresh produce in stock at the pantry that day and create healthy, delicious and simple meals, providing clients with the recipes and ingredients to take home and prepare themselves. The emergency food system is also working to increase the amount of fresh produce, dairy and proteins available for food bank clients.

How can you help change the story for individuals and families in Pierce County? There are many ways to get involved in the fight against hunger in our community. Host a food or dairy drive. Hold a soup kit making project. Volunteer to lead a cooking class or grocery store to learn more and to get involved!

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