At Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS), we know that to truly build a healthy, hunger free community, we must all work together. That’s why we’re excited about a new partnership with Urban Ministries of Wake County, funded by a Walmart Grant, to provide nutrition education to Urban Ministries clients, along with healthier pantry items. The partnership involves multiple components, improving health and nutrition awareness both at the giving and the receiving ends. IFFS has long delivered food to stock Urban Ministries food pantry, which is the second largest in Wake County. Now, the two organizations are working together on a Healthy Pantry Project to improve the nutritional quality of what Urban Ministries’ pantry offers – including more fresh produce and healthier shelf-stable items as well than are lower in sodium and include more whole grains, for example.
As Health Promotion Coordinator Paulina Tran says,
“We’re not filling bellies anymore, we’re fueling them. We want to make sure people are getting energy and nutrients from their food, not just empty calories.”
She works as an Americorps member between the two partner organizations to coordinate and implement nutrition education programs. While just in the beginning stages now, this is part of a growing movement to improve the quality of food offered as emergency relief to people experiencing food hardship across the country.
But in order for the fresh produce and healthy pantry items to be useful in improving health, recipients need the knowledge and skills to prepare them into healthy meals.
Inter-Faith Food Shuttle has served as the lead partner in North Carolina for Share Our Strength’s nutrition education programs Cooking Matters and Cooking Matters at the Store since 2008. Now, we’re bringing that curriculum, along with our expertise and experience in teaching nutrition and healthy cooking on a budget to the 24,000 low-income and often uninsured individuals Urban Ministries serves each year through their food pantry and Open Door Clinic as well.
Instead of starting their own nutrition program from scratch, Urban Ministries can utilize IFFS’s already established nutrition programs to build a sustainable, supported infrastructure for delivering quality nutrition education and healthy food to those in need
When people come to Urban Ministries Food Pantry, now they’ll be receiving recipes and information as well as food. Once a week, IFFS conduct a food demonstration in the lobby of Urban Ministries during the time folks can access the food pantry, sampling a healthy recipe, like vegetable soup, using what clients can get in Urban Ministries food pantry. All the recipes are intended to be easy, affordable, and healthy, and we demo a new recipe every month.
Additionally, IFFS runs Cooking Matters at the Store grocery tours every two week, teaching participants from Urban Ministries how to shop healthfully on a budget. Even if an individual can’t commit to a full 6 week class, they can still learn new tips to help them stretch their food dollars further and get the most nutritional bang for their buck.
Eventually, the two organizations plan to start a free Medical Mobile Market at Urban Ministries as well – something IFFS currently runs at Benson Medical Center and at Freedom Hill Clinic in Princeville, NC. Patients visiting Urban Ministries’ Open Door Clinic would receive a referral or “prescription” for produce from the market to help them access and afford the produce they need to manage chronic illnesses like obesity.
The partnership is aimed at not only relieving hunger but improving the long-term health of the community. We aim to ensure all people have enough healthy food to be able to live an active, productive life and the ability to feed themselves and their families.