All month long, we’re celebrating the tasty and nutritious benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables! The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, and may even protect against certain types of cancers. Most fruits and veggies are low in calories, and they can also help increase the amount of fiber and important nutrients that many people simply do not get enough of.
Reaping the Benefits When Fresh Isn’t an Option
The American Heart Association states that, when it comes to fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables, “all can be healthy choices!” Frozen and canned produce are convenient and inexpensive alternatives to fresh fruits and veggies, and these pantry staples pack a nutritious punch. While equally healthy and delicious, they also don’t expire as quickly as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are “picked at the peak of ripeness and then flash frozen to preserve optimal nutrition. They last for several months in the freezer and can be a very economical choice.” When it comes to canned goods, watch for sodium and added sugar. It’s best to choose fruits and veggies packed in water or juice, or light syrup (if you’re willing to rinse it off).
Creating a Home or Community Garden
Community Gardens are a wonderful way to work alongside neighbors to provide fresh, seasonal produce for individuals and families in need. Penn State University offers tips for planning and creating a community garden, including choosing a location, designing a plan, selecting the right crops, maintenance and care, and harvesting. For more information, click here. If yard space allows, home gardens are another excellent option. Gardening Tips has a ton of information on how to start a home garden from scratch in Pennsylvania, and check out this handy planting calendar for the Coatesville area from The Farmer’s Almanac.
Addressing Food Insecurity in Chester County
Both the city of Coatesville and West Chester Borough are federally designated food deserts, defined as “an impoverished area where residents lack access to healthy foods.” In addition, many Coatesville residents use public assistance to purchase food. Without a means of transportation or the ability to afford rising food prices, purchasing fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables can be a challenge.
Organizations like the Chester County Food Bank have helped to address food insecurity and access in our underserved communities through a network of food cupboards, hot meal sites, shelters, and other social service organizations, as well as food drives and initiatives like the Raised Bed Garden Program. In addition, the Alliance for Health Equity is currently working on a Healthy Living Strategy that will soon incorporate healthy food options in Coatesville. Stay tuned for more information to come!
The Alliance for Health Equity (formerly Brandywine Health Foundation) is a philanthropic organization striving to advance a more equitable, resilient and healthy community for all residents of the Greater Coatesville area. We pursue our mission by providing grants and scholarships to local nonprofits and students that address health and economic disparities and social justice. We also build partnership programs and give voice to those often left out of community solution building to improve the overall health of their communities. 100% of contributions go directly to those in need.