Update February 2019: This program is no longer active but information here can be still be valuable.
In this five part series, Community Commons highlights the successes of the Ohio Department of Health’s Creating Healthy Communities (CHC) program. CHC aims to increase health and prevent chronic diseases in 16 Ohio counties through policy, system, and environmental changes.
Related CHC Articles:
- Ohio Transforms School Food
- Obesity Prevention Starts Early in Ohio
- National Resources Lead to Active Communities in Ohio
- Ohio Grow the Seeds of Good Health
Food pantries are a lifeline for many people struggling with poverty and hunger. Unfortunately, the food options can be limited and rarely include fresh fruit and vegetables. Throw in the fact that many food pantry clients have little experience with preparing fresh food and it’s no wonder processed food and canned goods are the norm. Two Ohio counties have worked to change that and their residents are enjoying increased health benefits.
Fresh, Healthy Foods are Transforming Pantries
Rural Athens County, Ohio knew that improving food pantry options was more than just bringing in some carrots and bananas; they used a three-pronged approach to ensure long term success. First, they increased the donations of fresh food by placing Donation Stations at the local farmer’s markets.
Then they trained food pantry coordinators on the best methods of fresh food storage and distribution. The next step involved educating food pantry clients on how to prepare the food through a series of cooking workshops in which families received the cooking materials, recipes, and foods necessary to create healthy meals.
The combination of these three strategies has been successful in Athens County. Some food pantries have started their own food garden or orchard. Half of all participating food pantry users have increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables and all participants reported liking something new that they tried because of the program. Of those that participated in health screenings, half saw a reduction in their blood pressure and glucose levels.
Learn more about the Athens County CHC program or contact local coordinator Ruth Dudding at (dudding @ health.athens.oh.us) for more information.
A Client Choice Food Pantry Empowers Community
Cindy’s Corner Outreach Program in southern Toledo is an important emergency food resource for members of that community. However, the pre-packed food boxes that were available led to unintentional waste when clients received foods that were unfamiliar to them or that they were not sure how to prepare.
CHC of Lucas County worked with Cindy’s Corner to help them achieve a Client Choice model that empowers patrons to choose healthy foods for themselves. This involved training the pantry staff on how to organize and shelve food according to the USDA MyPlate guidelines and how to help clients choose and prepare healthy food. They also created a Best Foods to Donate guide to help educate the public on the needs of the food pantry.
The report below shows that Lucas County has a population with lower than average fruit and vegetable consumption. However, a follow up study on the improvements to Cindy’s Corner found that 100% of patrons enjoyed having fresh fruit and vegetables available to them, while 89% of patrons liked making their own food choices and being able to choose foods that met their special dietary needs.
CHC is funded through the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read all of their success stories. Follow Healthy Ohio on Facebook.