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The Healing Foods Project – it's change
By Jessica David / December 14, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...

“In the United States, where 50 million people go hungry, we see those living in poverty too often sick with life-style based diseases,” said McAuley Ministries Executive Director Don Wolfe. High-calorie, low-quality diets have left many poor and homeless people struggling with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

"We looked at the prescriptions we help some people fill on an emergency basis, and most were medications for things like diabetes and high blood pressure. People who are poor aren’t armed with information they need to be healthier. We want to change that.”




To that end, McAuley House – which serves up to 300 lunches five days a week at its meal site on Elmwood Avenue – joined forces with Mary Flynn, PhD, RD, a nutrition researcher at Miriam Hospital and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University. The Rev. Mary Margaret Earl, at the time Associate Director of McAuley House, had read about Flynn's work and contacted her. Flynn, who had not thought of a meal site as her next step, realized, after spending a few days at McAuley, that "this really could work."

With a $10,000 pilot grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, the Healing Foods Project was launched with the goal of providing nutritionally dense foods and nutrition information to hungry and poor Rhode Islanders.  

McAuley House is helping their guests to improve their nutrition and health through the Healing Foods Project. It is an innovative model that I hope other meal sites in Rhode Island and across the country will adopt.

      – Andrew Schiff, RI Community Food Bank

McAuley House is serving at least two vegetable-rich lunches a week – menus based on extra virgin olive oil, canned or frozen vegetables, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and canned legumes – all foods with a long shelf life that can be purchased in advance. They are also expanding their breakfast offering, making it far more nutritious than the donated pastries they served in the past.

Now, the meal-site wants to reach out and spread the word that a diet rich in vegetables, olive oil, and other plant-based products can be both healthy and economical. "We know this works," says Wolfe, "and we want to share with other nonprofits who want to implement the program." Their new Healing Foods Project website features video and recipes – even a downloadable cookbook. It is meant to serve as a resource for fellow meal sites interested in bringing the easily replicable recipes to their kitchens: Recipes for baked pasta with spinach and chickpeas; frittata with broccoli and potatoes; barley salad with carrots, black beans, and peppers. You have your choice of the large scale recipe for 50 servings or the small scale version that serves four.

I've been thrilled to watch this program take shape. It took a tremendous combination of knowledge, vision, and commitment from everyone involved. As other agencies learn from and expand upon this model, Rhode Island can make sure the supports we are providing to those in need are in service to their health and well-being.



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