Stories about: Healthful eating

Supporting community health, one bag of produce at a time

Deb Dickerson patiently waits at Boston Children’s at Martha Eliot for the bi-weekly delivery from Fair Foods, a non-profit that distributes surplus fresh fruits and vegetables at various locations around Boston. It’s raining and the truck is running a little late but Deb, Boston Children’s Hospital’s Director of Family, Youth and Community Programs, stays hopeful as always.

When the truck arrives, Deb throws open the front doors of the health center and greets the truck with open arms. A first peek inside the crates reveals red and yellow tomatoes on the vine, fresh apples, baby carrots, Bibb lettuce and more—all in good condition.
Fair Foods 1The 10 volunteers Deb recruited to help receive, sort and distribute the fruits and vegetables get busy unloading the truck. They are a mix of hospital staff, parents from the Smart from the Start program and residents from the Bromley-Heath housing development next door. Across the board, volunteers are positive, energized and collaborative.Fair Foods 2

Fair Foods 3

Once everything is unloaded, the sorting begins. “If it’s not good enough for your mother, throw it out!” calls out Deb. In the end, over 100 bags are assembled—each with 1 head of lettuce, 2 tomatoes, 2 bags of baby carrots, 4 apples, 6 limes and 8 onions. At the local grocery store, that would conservatively cost $17.80, but with Fair Foods, the bag is $2 or whatever small amount a family can afford to pay. There are no eligibility requirements and no maximum number of bags per family.

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Fair Foods is one of many community programs coordinated for local residents by Boston Children’s at Martha Eliot, which provides primary and preventative care services for children and youth from birth through age 25. “We have been in the heart of Jamaica Plain for more than 40 years providing excellent health care,” says Deb. “We want the community to know that we are also here to help them through our community programs. Fair Foods allows us to better meet the needs of our families who may have trouble getting convenient and affordable access to fresh vegetables and fruits.”

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One of the families buying a bag today is Yajaira and her 6-year-old son Yeuris, who is making silly faces and playing with silly putty. He peeks into their $2 bag to check out the contents, and pulls out an apple, squealing, “We love apples!”

Yeuris

Every bag sold or given away is a win. “Working directly with this program is very fulfilling,” says Deb. “We’re pleased that Martha Eliot can offer something like this to make the daily lives of residents in our community just a little easier and healthier.”

Learn more about Boston Children’s Primary Care at Martha Eliot.

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Healthy food for July 4th: Red, white & berry parfait

shutterstock_146926817A favorite summer holiday is just a few days away. July 4th calls for swimming, friends, family, fireworks and food … lots of food! Bringing something to a party or throwing one yourself? Bring a treat thats tasty, filling and good for you!

Try this Red, White & Berry Parfait.

IngredientsIMG_2380

  • 1 cup of 0-2% plain/vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 10 strawberries
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1/2 cup of whole grain granola (with at least 3-4g of fiber/serving)

Prepare

  • Layer the following ingredients and place them in a mason jar or clear glass—make it festive!
  • First place the strawberries, then the yogurt, then the blueberries, then the granola (in order: red, white and blue)
  • And enjoy!

Learn more about Boston Children’s Preventive Cardiology Clinic.

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Should Cupcakes Be Banned From School Parties?

CMcCarthy1When my older children were in elementary school, I sent in cupcakes for their birthdays or for class parties.

My youngest is in elementary school now, and for his birthday, I sent in pencils and temporary tattoos for classmates — because the school doesn’t allow us to send in sweets anymore.

When the change was first made, my reaction was: For real? Banning sweets? Since when did some cupcakes at a birthday party become so dangerous and a big deal? Even as a pediatrician, I thought it was silly. There’s nothing wrong with eating sweets as long as your diet is overall a healthy one.

But therein lies the problem. Not all kids’ diets are healthy. And, as I’ve thought about this more, I’ve decided that there’s something to be said for setting standards — and an example.

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Does mom’s petition to change M&M’s formula make her the Grinch who stole Halloween?

Renee Shutters is a mom with a mission. She has teamed with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) on a change.org petition to M&M’s maker Mars, Inc., requesting the company remove artificial dye from the iconic candy. She noticed her 9-year-old son’s hyperactive behavior improved after she eliminated foods containing artificial dyes from his diet. Now, she wants Mars to use natural dyes in M&M’s.

It seems like a bit of a bold request—until the candy maker’s European formula is revealed. On the other side of the pond, Mars nixes the petroleum-based dyes it uses in the U.S. and replaces them with natural dyes. Otherwise, the European Union would require Mars to package Euro M&M’s with a label that warns the candy “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH, pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, thinks the petition may be on the right track. Available evidence suggests that artificial dyes carry the potential to increase hyperactivity in any child, says Bernstein.

But the focus on food coloring masks a far bigger problem, says Bernstein. “Kids (and their parents) are being bombarded with foods specifically intended to lure them in.” Nearly every store in the U.S. immerses consumers in a sea of cheap, unhealthy and supersized junk food, he continues. Candy marketing follows a seasonal cycle from Valentine’s Day to Halloween.

Every fall, the trick-or-treat ritual generates a massive candy crush; Americans purchase 600 million pounds of candy for Halloween.

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