May 7, 2013

Franciscan Center Kicks Off Innovative Fresh Food Project

Allison Righter, MSPH, RD

Allison Righter, MSPH, RD

Program Officer, Eating for the Future

Center for a Livable Future

A typical CSA share

The Franciscan Center of Baltimore hosted a special kick-off event on Monday for its new healthy food initiative, the Fresh Harvest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Project.

In collaboration with United Way of Central Maryland (UWCM), Molly Shattuck Vibrant Living, One Straw Farm, the University of Maryland Extension Food Supplement Nutrition Education Program (FSNE) and us at the Center for a Livable Future, the Franciscan Center will distribute free weekly CSA shares to 30 low-income people and families from June through November 2013. In addition to giving participants consistent access to fresh produce, the Franciscan Center will also provide basic cooking utensils and seasonings as well as weekly food preparation tips and recipes. By tracking participation, surveying preferences, evaluating knowledge, and illustrating personal experiences through stories and photographs, the Franciscan Center hopes to gain insight into the effectiveness of providing low-income clients with CSA shares.

The kick-off event was timed appropriately to be during United Way’s Families Living United Healthy Food Week 2013, which is running from May 3–11. President and CEO of UWCM, Mark Furst, and Healthy Food Ambassador, Molly Shattuck, shared their enthusiasm for the Franciscan Center’s Fresh Harvest Project as part of United Way’s larger Access to Healthy Food Initiative, which has sourced and distributed over 3.4 million pounds of healthy foods to those in need since 2012. There are many opportunities to participate this week by volunteering this Saturday at First Fruits Farm or by donating healthy food at participating sites.

The first of its kind in Baltimore, the Fresh Harvest CSA Project will be a unique opportunity for researchers and providers to learn about the food preferences, barriers to healthy eating, and educational needs among low-income individuals. For enrolled participants, this project signifies a profound sense of hope for a healthier future. According to Mr. Michael Smith, an enrollee who shared his thoughts on the project at the kick-off event, “I am looking forward to the different types of vegetables and recipes so I can learn how to make better choices about what I put into my body and feel better.”

The Franciscan Center has made great strides in expanding its healthy food initiatives over the past few years since the late Ed McNally, former executive director, first championed these ideas in 2010. His legacy lives on in the continued commitment of the Franciscan Center to improving the health of Baltimore’s economically vulnerable citizens through the provision of good food with dignity.

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