Stories about: nutrition

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.”

WomaninBlue

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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Are nutrition labels headed for an extreme makeover?

nutrition labelFor many parents, the cereal aisle has become a maze of mythic proportions. “Trying to make sense of nutrition labels to make healthy choices for your children is really hard,” confirms Alison Field, ScD, from Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Adolescent Medicine.

Cereal serving-size labels are based on weight, so a serving of a healthier choice like Cheerios is much larger than granola, which may be a less healthful option.  Another case in point: Have you ever tried to understand the caloric and fat intake from a bag of popcorn?

Another challenge that parents face is that the U.S Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) current Nutrition Facts label is based on information about food consumption gathered during national surveys between 1978 and 1988, when the average American ate less.

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Planet Health: How adding preventative care can subtract from healthcare costs

When a child suffers from nutrition related health problems, it can cause a good deal of emotional and financial strain on her family. Obesity-related medical conditions like diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and cholesterol often lead to pricey medications and doctor visits, and are sometimes tied to emotional issues that can be costly to treat.

On the flip side, eating disorders can have a devastating affect on a person’s health and usually take years of regular therapy to treat successfully.

Treating these conditions in a single child is expensive; when you add together the cumulative costs of treating them on national level, the numbers are astronomical. But researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have found that a fairly inexpensive health promotion initiative could reduce both obesity and bulimia nervosa in adolescents, potentially saving millions in would-be healthcare costs.

Their study, recently published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, shows that by adopting an educational initiative called Planet Health, five Boston area schools successfully reduced the prevalence of obesity and behaviors linked to bulimia. If these Boston schools are any indication, a nationwide adoption of the program could lead to less obesity and eating disorders on a national level, thereby saving millions in healthcare dollars usually allotted to treating these conditions.

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Children's in the news

Have you heard about the new kids’ book, “Maggie Goes on a Diet”? It’s basically a retelling of the age-old ugly ducking fable, but with a modern twist. In this reenactment, the duckling is a 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet, and with a little hard work goes from being an overweight, self-conscious kid to a star soccer player and the most popular girl in school.

The book may stress the importance of healthful eating and exercise, but many people are finding fault with the author’s emphasis on the thin = happy storyline, instead of focusing on the importance of health.

Among the critics is our own Dr. Claire, who was on New England Cable News this morning to talk about Maggie, childhood obesity and how to send kids the right message about health and weight.

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