March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to promote healthful eating, informed food choices, and increased physical activity. This year’s theme, Celebrate a World of Flavors, goes beyond just focusing on developing healthy habits. It also embraces inclusion, global cultures and cuisine.
“We are all unique with different bodies, goals, backgrounds and tastes. Celebrating flavors from cultures around the world is a tasty way to nourish ourselves and appreciate our diversity.”
Addressing The Lack Of Grocery Availability In Parts Of Chester County
Drawing attention to health and economic disparities, Britanica defines a food dessert as “an impoverished area where residents lack access to healthy foods.” Sadly, both the city of Coatesville and West Chester Borough are federally designated food deserts. In addition, 38% of Coatesville residents use public assistance to purchase food. Without a means of transportation or the ability to afford rising food prices, acquiring fresh, healthy ingredients becomes nearly impossible without support from the community at large.
Through the Coatesville Food Truck Project, in partnership with Two Fish & Five Loaves, we are addressing food insecurity in our underserved communities, including Coatesville and West Chester. Since the start of the pandemic, we have already delivered over 10,000 healthy and culturally sensitive meals for free to low-income Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) families and seniors in Chester County.
Mobilizing Our Community To Ensure Access To Real, Healthy Food
The Chester County Food Bank is also addressing our local food deserts through their Fresh2You Mobile Market and a host of other services, including hot meal sites and food cupboards, and the Raised Bed Garden Program. Food Drives are an integral part of assisting neighbors that are struggling with food insecurity and hunger, and donations are accepted weekdays from 8AM-5PM. Pantry staples needed throughout the year may vary, but these are the most requested items, no matter the season:
- Healthy cereal and oatmeal
- Canned tuna and chicken
- Canola and olive oil
National Resources For Making Informed Food Choices
People living in food deserts may be at higher risk of diet-related conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Increasing physical activity and knowing how to make informed food choices can help. Thankfully, there are many free, online resources out there to help ensure a healthier and more nutritious diet, even in the face of adversity. Here are just a few:
- Myplate.gov / US Department of Agriculture
- Nutrition.gov / US Department of Agriculture
- EatRight.org / The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Heart.org / The American Heart Association
Stretching Your Food Dollars
There are smart ways to stretch your food dollars, stick to a budget, and eat healthier all at the same time. Clipping coupons and buying in bulk are well-known strategies. Compare different brands and sizes for the best money-saving option, and keep versatile, nutrient-dense items on hand. Good options include canned fruits and vegetables, beans (an inexpensive source of protein), and grains like oats, rice, and dried pasta, which typically have a 12-month shelf life of more.
Plan meals for several weeks based on your food budget and access to ingredients, and stick to a grocery list to reduce shopping trips and unhealthy impulse buys. Cooking from scratch is typically healthier and less expensive than processed, pre-packaged goods and fast foods, and you can make and freeze meals ahead of time for convenience.
For more information on The Alliance for Health Equity or to get involved, we invite you to visit our website. To learn more about the nutrition and education programs provided by The Chester County Food Bank, click here.
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.