RHI Profile of the Week:
Fresh Food Initiative
The Fresh Food Initiative aims to increase Montana residents’ access to healthy food and local products. The Fresh Food Initiative works on various activities, including: the Helena Food Share revitalization, distribution of locally grown food through the mobile farm stand; increasing nutritious food options through the Grocery Share program; securing healthy donations through the Grocery Rescue program; introducing healthy options in the Kid Packs like Kamut; SNAP cooking and nutrition classes with MSU Extension; holiday food distribution that includes fresh produce; distribution and marketing of locally grown specialty crops like lentils; incentives, such as crock pots, to encourage preparation and stretching of wholesome meals; a recipe board and product demonstrations to encourage healthy food consumption and cooking habits.
The Fresh Food Initiative helps organize Kid Packs with the Helena Food Share. In Helena, Montana, 1,100 kids receive Kids Packs – a source of weekend nutrition – every week. The Kid Packs include milk, juice, l0w-sugar granola bars, dry cereal, oatmeal, easy mac, pop-top meals in a can, fruit cups, peanut butter, and kamut. Every Tuesday night, a volunteer crew of 15-20 individuals works to assemble the Kid Packs for the week.
The Fresh Food Initiative serves individuals and families in the Greater Helena Area who are in need of food assistance. Some of their major partners are the Helena Food Share, Montana State University Extension, Helena Community Gardens, The Fresh Food Collaborative, and Helena City Parks and Recreation.
Major goals of the Fresh Food Initiative include increasing fresh food donations from local grocers and growers, as well as increasing nutritious food options available through the Grocery Share program.
“Improving the community begins with knowing those you serve and building trust. Brainstorm with the community; involve them in the cause. People are motivated to collaborate when you find common and innovative intersections in each other’s missions. We have found success by developing
partnerships, working with a large volunteer force, and caring deeply about the people we serve.”
-Kim Dale and Kara Snyder, Helena Food Share
The organizers of the Fresh Food Initiative firmly believe that community engagement and collaboration is critical to what they do at the Helena Food Share.
If you are interested in volunteering or getting involved with the Fresh Food Initiative or Helena Food Share, you can find more information at their website. The Fresh Food Initiative also works extensively with MSU Extension, whose website can be found here.
Eating fresh produce and varied nutrients is an important part of a healthy diet. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check. Eating non-starchy vegetables and fruits like apples, pears, and green leafy vegetables may even promote weight loss.”
Promoting healthy eating is an important public health strategy, particularly in rural communities such as those in Montana. People who live in rural communities face barriers to eating healthy produce, such as high costs and low availability. Community programs such as the Helena Food Share and other community gardens aim to address those challenges.
Below are links to evidence-based resources on healthy eating and fresh produce: