Healthy eating doesn’t have to break the bank. But for some, buying healthy food on a budget is nearly impossible. According to Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters, 85 percent of low-income parents say eating healthy meals is important to their families. The desire to learn is most definitely there, but the knowledge and accessibility issues have such a huge impact on the dietary choices of these individuals.
Living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I’ve had the opportunity to serve diverse communities in a variety of experiences. The Tarrant Area Food Bank offers a program called Cooking Matters at the Store. It is meant to educate shoppers about eating healthy on a budget with reference to USDA’s MyPlate concept. If you haven’t heard about it, then maybe you have heard of grocery store tours. These tours can be set up in a typical format, with groups taken to various store sections, or in an event format, with individuals walking from table to table at their leisure. The incentive for the participants is a $10 gift card they can use to purchase healthier food items.
As a program volunteer, I educated participants on calculating and comparing unit prices, reading nutrition facts labels, and USDA’s MyPlate recommendations. The feedback received as a volunteer has been amazing. I see the pure interest and excitement in participants’ faces as common food and nutrition misconceptions and various ways to shop healthy on a budget are discussed. Participants are genuinely thankful and oftentimes walk away saying something like, “Wow, I really didn’t know that. Now I can share this with my family and friends.” Giving store tours has been such a remarkable experience, and I hope they become much more common.
Food banks like TAFB have the ability to offer programs like Cooking Matters at the Store with help from donations and federal grants. Thankfully, there has been a rise in supermarket dietitians across the nation. As a dietetic intern this is very exciting! Helping low-income families break the barriers of cost and knowledge through store tours is easy and effective.
If you have a passion for reaching the community on a more personal level, think about hosting a store tour! Talk to your local grocery store and see if they’d be willing to host you and a few educated volunteers. There are so many useful tools available online to print and hand out, free of charge. You can even put together poster boards and tri-folds at minimal expense. Community service is always inspiring, especially when you’re helping someone achieve a higher quality of life. One person may not be able to help everyone, but everyone can help someone. Make it happen!
Find more info on the Cooking Matters at the Store program.