by Courtney Marello
National Nutrition Month is a time to highlight the importance of good nutrition as the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. As you look at your own eating patterns and confirm your good habits or plan to make changes, think also about the nearly half a million hungry Connecticut residents who have to decide whether to pay their bills or buy nutritious food. When faced with this situation, inexpensive, less healthy items are often chosen over more expensive, fresh items with a better nutritional profile, in an effort to put more food on the table. Fresh produce, meat and dairy are hard to come by on a tight budget, which is why the Connecticut Food Bank has committed to making fresh produce constitute at least 30% of the food we distribute. In fact, last year, the Connecticut Food Bank was able to exceed that goal, reaching 35%.
The Connecticut Food Bank offers programs that help students understand how hunger and nutrition intersect and also to learn how having limited income can affect nutrition. Topics covered in our school presentations include information and materials developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its MyPlate program, an updated approach to recommending nutrition guidelines that replaces the USDA food pyramid. The program also includes discussion of the role that food plays in our own lives, aligning with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ theme this year, “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” Visual tools demonstrate serving sizes and illustrate fat, sugar and sodium content in many commonly purchased food items that students will easily recognize.
The session wraps up with simple key messages such as: 1) make half of your plate fruits and vegetables; 2) eat a variety of colors; and 3) reduce intake of empty calories. Also discussed is how to read a food label, shown at right.
At the conclusion of this session, students are equipped with the knowledge to better understand the overall impact of hunger on health, in addition to utilizing tools that will help them make better choices about their own eating habits.
Nutrition education presentations are made by Connecticut Food Bank staff and volunteers and are available to interested schools, civic and faith based groups. Sessions can be adapted for a 30 to 60 minute delivery and for any size group. For more information, contact Courtney at 203-741-9206, or email email@example.com.
As we continue to celebrate National Nutrition Month, take time to appreciate and understand the role that food plays in your life and recognize that many of our hungry neighbors cannot always share the same experiences. Moderation in less healthy foods and consumption of a wide variety of healthy foods as part of a well balanced diet seems easy enough, but it’s simply not feasible for many without the help of food pantries and soup kitchens providing food to people in need across our state. During National Nutrition Month, take the time to learn about the harsh reality of hunger, raise awareness of the inequalities in our food system and support the Connecticut Food Bank mission of providing nutritious food to people in need. Educate. Advocate. Donate. We can all be partners in the fight against hunger.
Courtney Marello is an AmeriCorps VISTA staff member assigned to the Connecticut Food Bank in support of its youth outreach and nutrition education programs