March is National Nutrition Month, a time to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating habits – issues that many of our patients struggle with not out of indifference but due to food insecurity and limited access to supermarkets.
It is for these very reasons that Whittier Street Health Center offers numerous nutrition related programs and referrals, starting with our on-site registered dieticians who provide nutritional assessments and counseling to meet individual needs with special attention to maintaining overall health and managing conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
We know all too well the challenges some of our patients face in the absence of transportation to markets that offer a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy choices. In response, Whittier refers many of our patients to food access programs, such as the WIC Nutrition Program. In addition, we maintain a Community Garden at our Tremont Street address in Roxbury where our staff members host urban community gardening sessions, and a Teaching Kitchen where our registered dieticians host cooking classes and demonstrations for patients enrolled in our Wellness, Healthy Weight, and Chronic Disease Management programs.
Our Food Pantry provides a reliable and accessible food and nutrition service in an effort to decrease food insecurity and promote healthy diets for individuals and families. Patients who are determined eligible receive a Prescription for Groceries and receive a monthly bag of items from each food group in addition to materials on nutrition and information about neighborhood food banks.
It is no secret that racial inequities are a fundamental cause of food uncertainty and gaps in food access. This creates a domino effect of poor nutrition and its tragic contribution to many diseases, including obesity, heart disease, and some cancers.
And the importance of proper nutrition for children cannot be overstated – from supporting brain development and healthy growth, to strengthening bones and boosting immunity.
Good nutrition is critical not only to good physical health but also to emotional well-being, providing the energy and nutrients required for our bodies and minds to function properly.