Local seniors improve their diets, learn about nutrition through Healthy Food Connect

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Local seniors improve their diets, learn about nutrition through Healthy Food Connect
Staff at PACE Southeast Michigan in Warren demonstrate how to prepare fresh, healthy food. Here they plate a salad for participants to try. PHotos Courtesy of Debra Kaszubski

Many seniors want fresh fruit and vegetables everyday but fall short because they don�t have the resources to buy nutritious food. Obstacles such as lack of transportation to grocery stores, or inadequate funds are just two of the barriers many seniors face.

�For some seniors on limited budgets it comes down to buying medicine or healthy food such as fruits and vegetables,� said Melissa Smiley, Special Assistant to the President and Strategy Officer for the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

Limited access to healthy food is a big problem. Smiley said that more than 780,000 people in Southeast Michigan do not consistently have access to the foods they need to live healthy.

Healthy Food Connect, an initiative of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, supports and grows programs that combat food insecurity the and hunger among seniors in seven counties, including Oakland, Macomb and Wayne.

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Grants totaling $2 million were awarded to 20 programs that improve access to healthy food. Some of the programs include Fair Food Network, which supports the expansion of regional access to fresh foods and education about healthy food prep, nutrition and exercise.

Forgotten Harvest�s Fresh Food Alliance, a regional program to connect food providers with local grocers who donate food for distribution that would otherwise go to waste, also received a grant.

Gleaners Community Food Bank received funds to support food pantries in the region with signage, refrigeration and shelving designed to prioritize fruits and vegetables in client shopping.

The Area Agency on Aging 1-B earned a grant to fund MI Senior FEAST (Friends Eating And Socializing Together), which provides group meals in a restaurant setting for Middle Eastern population and older adults in Macomb county.

Macomb County received a grant that funds a fresh food mobile pantry that increases food distribution among seniors.

Fresh Corner Caf� operates Fresh Market Pop-ups in 20 locations throughout Southeast Michigan. The pop-up markets sell fresh fruits and vegetables in convenient locations.

A grant was awarded to PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) Southeast Michigan to offer monthly cooking demonstrations designed to teach seniors and their caregivers how to prepare healthier meals.

Additionally, the grant has allowed PACE to purchase outdoor raised gardens and indoor gardens, where seniors can grow fruits and vegetables, as well as cooking demonstration equipment and food models to use in teaching seniors about eating right.

�We provided snack packs and made smoothies for the seniors who couldn�t chew fresh fruits and vegetables. The snack packs were made up of carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, and sometimes we sent them home with a bag of salad and dressing. This was to keep encouraging them to eat their fruit and vegetables,� said Laurie Arora, Director of Public Affairs and Philanthropy for PACE Southeast Michigan.

Nancy Gulley, 72, of Madison Heights, attended a recent cooking demonstration at PACE Warren where she had the opportunity to try a southwest salad. The dish was made of ground turkey, fresh vegetables, and cheese.

�It was delicious and so easy to make,� she said. �I�m going to make this at home for sure.�

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