Making food dollars count
It’s a difficult – but common – financial problem: how to buy the best food possible, without blowing a limited budget.
But with the help of NSHA Community Health Teams in the Halifax area, families and individuals are learning strategies to buy better.
Lorraine and Carla Jean Singer, participated in one of the Community Health Team’s most popular programs, Making the Most of Your Food Dollar, one of several that incorporate food security into its lessons. In this program, clients discuss how to get the most value from the money that they have budgeted for food.
“You have given us a gift of learning how to shop, cook, and (you have) encouraged our self-esteem. You gave us confidence,” said the sisters after completing the program.
The Community Health Teams have held community conversations with citizens and partners to listen, learn and hear about the needs of the community.
“We heard that people were struggling with food insecurity – having difficulty accessing or worry about not having enough food for an active and healthy life,” said Community Health Team wellness facilitator Jacklynn Humphrey. “This really has shaped all our programs. There is a definite focus on eating as healthy as you can afford to.”
The Community Health Teams offer a wide variety of free healthy eating programs. Both Food for One or Two and Making the Most of Your Food Dollar are focused on planning meals to balance health, budget, time and food waste through effective planning and shopping techniques.
“We know that many households are food insecure. Over 23,000 people in Nova Scotia were assisted by food banks in 2012. Almost a third of those were children. This usage is up significantly from 2008” said Humphrey. “Eating healthy is expensive, no matter how carefully you plan. We created all of our programs with this understanding”.
All Community Health Team programs, such as Prediabetes, Food Fads or Discovering Your Best Weight, are built on practical, lower cost ways to eat as healthy as you can afford.
“There is no judgment and clients are supported to make realistic changes that are important to them” said Humphrey.“Our programs are also set up to make them easy to access,” explained Tina McPhee, dietitian and team lead with the Community Health Teams.
All programs are free of charge and offered in multiple community locations. No referral is required. Programs are offered during the day and in the evenings as well.
The Community Health Teams also work closely with community partners. One such partnership is with local food banks.
“We offer hands-on cooking programs with Food Bank patrons,” said McPhee. “We work with the food bank to find out what items their clients do not take because they are unsure of how to prepare and use them.”
The next step for Community Health Team staff is to build a program to prepare practical recipes, incorporating these less-used foods into meals that clients and their families will enjoy eating.
“We also introduce them to new lower cost ingredients such as TVP (textured vegetable protein),” said McPhee. “It is an opportunity to try a new ingredient before investing valuable food dollars to purchasing it.”
Community Health Teams also help clients who are looking for more community resources in a certain area.
“Sometimes clients come in with more complex health and social needs,” said McPhee. “We will then connect them with one of our wellness navigators. Navigators are health professionals who know health care, the community and government systems and can help folks find the right resources.”
The Community Health Teams offer many free programs to help support clients to better manage their health: programs on physical activity, emotional wellness, parenting, managing risk factors and nutrition. To find out more, register for an upcoming program or to book an appointment to meet with a navigator, call 902-460-4560 or visit www.communityhealthteams.ca.