What is it?
HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) is a jointly funded collaborative effort by Parkview Health and the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation to create awareness of and linkage to opportunities for healthy eating in low-income, food-desert areas. HEAL uses a multipronged approach to breaking down access barriers to and increasing consumption of fresh produce in designated food-desert areas. The program's purpose is to: (1) Increase the sustainable access to and regular intake of fresh, local healthy foods by low-income individuals thus helping to prevent and/or manage long-term chronic disease; and (2) Create awareness of and linkage to opportunities for healthy eating leading to better health and wellness in the community.
HEAL goals were accomplished through the funding of three program areas:
- Urban Gardens - HEAL supported the cost of developing, planting and maintaining gardens at two sites in low-income housing areas and transitional housing organizations. Produce from the gardens was sold at farmers markets or used to feed residents.
- Farmers Markets - HEAL supported three farmers markets in food-desert areas by acting as fiscal agents promoting markets, offering coupons, and matching WIC and SNAP purchases for increased consumption and easy access.
- Our HEALing Kitchen – HEAL developed an eight-session cooking curriculum that includes nutritional, preparation, and preservation information in the lessons. Participants learn to prepare healthy, nutritious meals using fresh produce and how to incorporate healthy foods into food bank-distributed items and other low-cost food options.
Who is it for?
Low-income adults and children, transitional housing residents (specifically, homeless woman and children), and seniors in Allen County. Course offerings will be expanded in 2016 to include other engaged organizations in food-desert areas such as churches, Boys and Girls Clubs, and food pantries.
Why do they do it?
Today, about half of all American adults have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor-quality eating patterns and physical inactivity. Rates of these chronic, diet-related diseases continue to rise, and they come with increased health risks and at a high cost. Higher intake of vegetables and fruits is associated with healthy eating patterns and positive health outcomes.
According to Dr. Deborah McMahan, Allen County Health Commissioner, "Optimal physiological, cognitive, and emotional development and function in children and adults requires access to an adequate quantity of nutritionally sufficient quality foods." To put it in simpler terms, access by all people at all times to quality, low-cost fresh produce is necessary for an active, healthy life. HEAL addresses access barriers to to healthy foods.
In 2015, HEAL markets served more than 1,000 customers by matching WIC and SNAP as well as distributing recipes and demonstrating food preparation made from market produce,. Consumption increased by more than 100 percent to 7.5 cups of fresh produce daily (self-reported). Our HEALing Kitchen trained more than 50 residents, increased consumption by more than 90 percent, and increased knowledge by 23 percent as measured in surveys and assessments. Testimonials indicate that HEAL changed lives and brought unity to communities that were served.
Contact: Jill McAllister
Community Benefit Manager