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Food Pantry Volunteers Help Clients Make Healthy Choices


At the Crosslines Food Pantry on Glenstone Avenue, volunteers are shelving various types of food. As of late, they have been shelving a lot more low sodium and sugarless items because it's what their customers need, says volunteer Cathy Marritt.  

"There will be some who are definitely looking for those things. A few of the ladies have clients who ask for specific foods for diabetics," said Cathy Merrit.

Crosslines is one of 25 food pantries in the region. Bambie Wurzburger is the project assistant and says their numbers have been through the roof since the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cut$5 billionin funding nationwide. This time last year they were serving about 45 clients a day. Now they serve almost 75.

With the high volume of clients comes a high volume of different dietary needs.

"Now that we have incorporated the healthy choice food in with our regular pantry foods, it is a lot easier for our clients to have access to those foods they can eat instead of taking what they can't eat and possibly hurting their health,"  said Wurzburger.

Focusing on topics such as diabetes, hypertension, and celiac (see-lee-ak) disease, the training session will allow food pantry volunteers to learn more about healthy options to help clients shop.  

Cathey Merrit's husband, Ronnie, is also a weekly Crosslines volunteer.

"That a part of our serving others, if we know they are diabetic, then we are able to point them to certain items in their super market at Crosslines that would be better for them. And they are also very appreciative when you do that…I have quite a number of people who have healthy issues are concerned about their diet," said Ronnie Merrit.

Licensed dietetics and MSU dietetic interns will not only teach about healthy eating but specific ways to work around health problems. One intern, Angela Hazel, says volunteers at food panties will pick up little tricks from the training, like reducing the sodium content in a can of beans by pouring the liquid out of can or  choosing whole wheat multi-grain bread as opposed to plain white bread.

"We don't want to say you can't eat your favorite food for the rest of your life. It is just making small changes and maybe eating those less healthy foods a little less often and choosing healthier food more often. That will help change your diet and will help change your life," Hazel said.

In her experience with different food pantries, she noticed a number of clients frequenting the hospital with the same problems, over, and over again. She thinks these reoccurring health issues to poor dietary choices.

"Living a westernized diet with high sodium high, high cholesterol, high fat, foods are causing a lot of problems with health disparities in America," said Hazel.  

The American Diabetes Association estimates that one out of every three children born after 2000 in the United States will be directly affected by diabetes. With heart risk and other medical ailments as a health factor, too, those at the Healthy Food Pantry Collaborativesay a proper diet is essential to being a healthy person.

A two-hour training session to become a certified "Food Ambassador" begins at 1 PM, April 7 at the Council of Churches, located at 624 N Glenstone Avenue.

For KSMU News, I'm Shannon Bowes.