Twice each month, parents and children assemble in the small recreation room at San Andreas Camp for a nutrition lesson and fresh produce distribution. The topic for June was obesity and its link to type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, heart disease and stroke. Participants learned the importance of maintaining a balance between the calories they consume and the calories they burn, and talked about ways to reduce calories and fat.
Second Harvest’s Passion For Produce program currently offers 700 nutrition classes annually at 29 sites located throughout Santa Cruz County. The program, designed to serve farm workers and other low-income households in Santa Cruz County, offers nutrition lessons and healthy recipe cooking demonstrations along with market-style fresh produce distributions.
In addition to the information and healthy food, the distributions provide an opportunity for families to come together and share ideas. Children snack on fresh fruit and play, giving parents a chance to converse.
Over 300 trained nutrition ambassador volunteers provide bilingual peer education and encouragement for healthy lifestyle changes, and help distribute over 1 million pounds of fresh produce every year to local families in need.
One of the participants, Lola, says it is a big help for her family to get the fresh fruits and vegetables. She has all of the Passion For Produce recipes in her kitchen. “I like them because they are not complicated,” she explains. “I want to thank everyone for the food.”
Teresa, another participant, says she has learned to cook with more vegetables. “We don’t eat as much pasta anymore.” She makes agua frescas with carrots by diluting carrot puree with water. She has also replaced sugary drinks with fruit waters that she makes simply by adding fresh fruit to water. “It is difficult to afford healthy food,” says Teresa. “This program has been good for our family.”
Passion For Produce was recognized as a model peer education program by UC Berkeley’s Atkins Center for Weight and Health. Over 90% of participants have increased their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and adopted healthier cooking habits.