The W.E.L.L. Program
Obesity and its health risks are a growing problem in St. Louis, especially among lower income populations. Obesity is related to limited social and economic resources and has been linked to unequal access to healthy foods. We�ve found that food pantry clients often purchase unhealthy food because it is more convenient and less expensive.
In December of 2006, the Missouri Foundation for Health awarded Feed My People a grant to create a healthy and active lifestyles program for its clients, staff and volunteers. Feed My People partnered with Transtria LLC, a St. Louis-based public health research and consulting firm, to develop the W.E.L.L. (Walk. Eat. Learn. Live.) program, a three-pronged effort to reduce obesity and improve health in the communities served by Feed My People.
The W.E.L.L. program emphasizes:
Feed My People food pantry clients learn how to choose healthy alternatives when they purchase, prepare, and serve foods through education sessions, cooking classes, and taste tests.Interpersonal relationships
Clients participate in walking groups to increase levels of physical activity and build supportive relationships.
Feed My People donors and the greater St. Louis community are provided with information about the importance of making healthy donations to food pantries.
Specific activities of the W.E.L.L. program include:
Education Cards: Clients collect nutrition and physical activity education cards each time they visit Feed My People to receive food. The nutrition education cards provide information such as understanding different types of fat, determining serving sizes, understanding nutrition labels, dispelling nutrition myths, shopping on a budget, and other helpful topics. Through the physical activity education cards, clients learn how to create a walking plan, conduct strength building and stretching exercises, and discover new types of physical activities. As the program progresses forward, participants will continue to gain valuable and practical nutrition and physical activity knowledge.
Healthy Recipes: Clients receive new recipes each time they visit Feed My People to receive their food. The recipes are organized according to: main dishes, side dishes, soups and stews and breads, desserts and snacks. The recipes chosen as part of the program include those that: 1) incorporate foods received from the pantry, 2) are low in cost, 3) are quick and easy to prepare, 4) substitute healthier ingredients for those that are less healthy and 5) utilize high nutrient foods. Clients are able to organize and store the recipes they collect in a W.E.L.L. box they receive at the beginning of the program.
Cooking Classes: Cooking classes meet once a month at each of the two Feed My People locations. During the cooking classes, W.E.L.L. participants prepare a complete meal from start to finish, consisting of three healthy and tasty recipes. Each participant then consumes the meal they helped create, with a focus on proper portion sizes. At the conclusion of the class, participants receive the recipes, leftovers to take home to their families and a gift for their kitchen. The cooking classes introduce new cooking skills, build confidence in cooking abilities, expose participants to new foods and flavors and encourage participants to modify recipes based on what foods they have on hand.
Taste Tests: Both Feed My People locations host a W.E.L.L. taste test for two weeks out of the month. Participants are given the opportunity to taste a healthy new recipe while they wait to receive their food. Recipes chosen for the monthly taste tests are those that require few ingredients, are easy to prepare and incorporate foods received from the pantry.
Walking Groups: Being physically active is an important step in reducing and preventing obesity. The W.E.L.L. program offers several walking groups each week. Volunteers lead groups in Jefferson Barracks Park, Meramec Greenway, South County Mall, and other locations. Participants are able to track their daily steps with a W.E.L.L. pedometer.
Special Activities: When participants express interest in a particular topic or activity related to nutrition and/or physical activity, the W.E.L.L. program staff offer a special class for W.E.L.L. participants. Examples include indoor herb gardening, diabetes management, cooking with kids, and more. If you have a special hobby or skill you would like to share with the W.E.L.L. participants, contact our Project Coordinator, Gina Deiters.
Community Education: In addition to educating our clients, we hope to increase awareness in the community about the importance of making healthy donations to food pantries. We recognize that our food pantry clients do not have much choice when it comes to the types of foods they receive in their food orders. One way we can help to improve their healthy eating is by providing access to healthier foods at our pantries. With the help of our program partners, we have created healthier versions of our existing food donation and Meal-A-Month wish lists. We distribute these lists during our regular Freedom from Hunger food drives, meetings with board members, regular donors and other fundraising events. Please feel free to make copies and distribute our Healthy Food Drive Donation list or Healthy Meal-A-Month list during your next food drive.
In order to track our progress, all participants have been asked to complete a survey that assesses their nutrition and physical activity knowledge, attitudes and behaviors at the beginning and at the end of the program period. We hope to be able to see a positive change in our clients. Participants also fill out weekly eating and activity logs to track their healthy eating patterns and physical activity levels. Throughout the course of the program, we encourage suggestions and feedback in order to improve the program and ensure it is meeting the participants� needs.
All clients, volunteers, and staff of Feed My People are encouraged to participate in the W.E.L.L. program. All you need to do is fill out a survey and turn it in to the Program Coordinator to receive your W.E.L.L. box and education materials. Registered participants are welcome to participate in all W.E.L.L. program activities. Look for the W.E.L.L. bulletin board at the Lemay and High Ridge locations for up-to-date information about dates and times for program activities.
We are always looking for new volunteers to lead cooking classes and walking groups, refresh taste test supplies, distribute healthy donation letters, and other activities. If you are interested in helping with this program, please contact Betty Struder, the W.E.L.L. Program Coordinator, at 314.631.4900.