Fresh Grown Cooking for Community Outreach, Inc.

A Cooking, Nutrition and Fresh Grown Food Education Program

Fruit and vegetable consumption, as part of a healthy diet, plays an important role in optimal growth, weight management, and chronic disease prevention such as type 2 diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, and cancer. However, many adults and children have developed unhealthy eating habits and eat few or no fruits and vegetables on an average day. Instead, they tend to consume calorie-dense and nutrient-poor foods.

Dietary Guidelines

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that people two years and older eat 2 to 6½ cups of fruits and vegetables per day, depending on caloric needs. For example, a person who needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight and health, would need to eat 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables per day. The current recommendations support fruits and vegetables as foods that should be eaten most often. However, this means that most Americans need more than doubling the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat on a daily basis.

There are many reasons why a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is important:
  1. Fruits and vegetables contribute many nutrients that are under consumed in the United States: vitamins A, C and K, potassium, and magnesium.
  2. Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of fiber important for digestive health.
  3. Fruits and vegetables are associated with reduced risk of many chronic diseases.
  4. Fruits and vegetables are relatively low in calories which can replace foods high in calories. Research indicates that there is an association between fruit and vegetable consumption and obesity, which is highlighted by the fact that seven of the ten states with the highest obesity rates are also the states with the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption (F as in Fat. Trust for America's Health. 2012)

Food Insecurity in Benton County

According to Feeding America, 16 percent of residents (13,300 residents) in Benton County reported food insecurity in 2009. It is not clear whether Benton County's homeless are included in this number. What we do know for sure is that homeless men, women, and families struggle with food insecurity. Food insecurity is a complex problem and is not just about getting enough food, but also about getting the right food -- it is about making healthy choices. However, as Marion Nestle, professor in the department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, points out "It's self-evident that it is more difficult to make healthier food choices when no healthy food choices are available or when healthier foods are relatively expensive... If you don't have the money to buy healthy food, you will eat what you can get." The cheapest foods are often high in calories and low in nutritional value.

Cooking and Nutrition Education for families at Community Outreach

There is a need to teach low-income and homeless families how to prepare healthful, affordable, and nutritious meals for their whole family. In partnership with Community Outreach, Inc. (COI), we are offering cooking and nutrition education classes for the COI families. COI provides services for the Mid-Willamette Valley's homeless and poor such as crisis counseling, a food bank, transitional housing, free health care, case management, and mental health and substance abuse counseling.

The goal of these cooking classes is to teach parents and their children how to adopt healthy eating habits, which are part of a healthy lifestyle. The supporting objectives of these classes are to educate families on (a) how to plan healthy meals on a tight budget; (b) how to prepare a nutritious meal using ingredients available in the COI food pantry; (c) how to include fresh or frozen produce into daily meals; (d) how to include children in preparing and cooking a meal; and (e) how to connect and bond with children while sharing a meal together.

Click here to read a recent news article in the Gazette Times: Meal Outreach

This program is funded by a grant from Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.

Fresh Grown

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