In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of our nutrition education program. One of the many things that I love about the Food Bank’s team of nutritionists is that they are out in the community, providing cooking demonstrations and food tastings, as well as information and tips for eating healthier.
While people wait in line for their food, the nutritionists give five to ten minute long nutrition education lessons to groups of four to six people at a time. The lessons include MyPlate, a tool developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to encourage consumers to make healthy choices based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They hand out tip cards featuring different vegetables and fruits with recipes, as well as food samples.
And it works. Really well. A recent evaluation conducted by Perales & Associates Evaluation Services, on behalf of the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) and the California Department of Public Health’s Network for a Healthy California, found that nearly half of the study participants that received those lessons used the MyPlate information to prepare more vegetables compared with 10 percent of the control group (i.e., those who didn’t get lessons).
Community members who received nutrition education were more likely to report healthier eating habits such as preparing more vegetables, eating foods lower in fat, including fewer fast foods, and adding at least 2 food groups to their meals. Those who received the lessons also reported that they were more likely to purchase the vegetables and fruits featured on the tip cards, as well as prepare the provided recipe.
Here are the key takeaways from the evaluation:
The nutrition lessons are included in CAFB’s Nutrition Education and Produce Distribution Toolbox. CAFB, which represents 41 food banks in California, worked with the California Department of Public Health’s Network for a Healthy California and Perales and Associates to compile the Toolbox to improve nutrition education resources for food banks.
*** Second Harvest’s Nutrition Education Program is partly funded by the USDA SNAP-education funded Innovative Project grant, which ends this month. Thanks to this grant, over 25,000 clients at both direct service sites and through partner agency classes were reached over a 16-month period.