Fresh Produce Fights Hunger and Obesity

Last week my family and I honored the Thanksgiving holiday by helping City Harvest distribute 20,000 pounds of fresh produce to people in need in the Bronx as part of their Mobile Market initiative. Besides filling peoples' shopping carts with fruits and vegetables that are otherwise difficult for them to access affordably, City Harvest also provides inspiration and information by giving out samples of prepared dishes as well as recipes and tips for using the produce. They hold these markets twice a month in neighborhoods considered "food deserts" around New York City.

As the guest chef of this special Holiday Market, I passed out more than 300 tastes of one of my favorite fall recipes: Roasted Cauliflower with Almonds and Golden Raisins. My 8-year-old daughter, Bella helped me prep and serve, my husband, Thom sorted through huge crates of turnips for distribution and my dad, Howard helped bag potatoes. The line of people snaked around the block brought home the reality that people right here in my city are experiencing hunger. It was especially meaningful for us as my dad was raised in the Bronx and I was born about four blocks from the market site.

More importantly, programs like these are meaningful for our country at large. By increasing access to fresh produce and providing nutrition education, City Harvest, which is part of Feeding America, is helping combat two problems simultaneously: hunger and obesity. These may seem like opposite issues at first glance, but they are integrally linked. The fact is people with low incomes are those most at risk of obesity and the diseases that go along with it like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It makes sense when you think about it since the cheapest, easy-access food tends to be high in calories and low in nutrition.

City Harvest is on the cutting edge of a new awareness by hunger organizations that the solution is not simply getting food to the hungry, it is getting them consistent access to the right kinds of food and the education they need to make changes for their own health and the health of their communities. Since fresh produce is a cornerstone of healthy eating, it is critical that fresh fruits and vegetables and nutrition education are made a part of programs to feed the hungry. When you think about it that way, the roasted cauliflower I served up at the market last week is so much more than a delicious side dish. It's a valuable tool to help people most in need live better and get our country on a healthier track.