Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In Honor of American Heart Health Month… and Dark Leafy Greens

I admit that I did not intend these thoughts for the LPCS blog, or for any blog really, but for my own personal thought cabin (my metaphorical cabin where I store any writing that only Thoreau would come across during a retreat close to Walden Pond). Yet as often happens in my world, I found that these thoughts are especially related to the goals and Mission of LPCS, and so I am sharing them with you today

Most people who know me also know how important I consider a healthy diet. I have been a strong-willed vegetarian for over 12 years, I preach about organic diets and a fear of MSG, and my vitamin regimen would loom on the side of obsessive. I confess to even sneaking ground flax seed into dishes made for others without their knowledge, out of love. A friend is frequently joking that I “hate flavor”. We go out to eat and he will say to the waiter, “my friend here does not like to enjoy her food, but do you have any kale?” The truth is, like any other sensible human, I love food. I love to eat and try new dishes and take photographs when something looks especially decorative to post to miscellaneous social media (see below).

It is especially tough for me to go past a McDonald's (ever heard of it?) and see a long line of people, and then walk directly up to the front of an all salad café with no wait and a realization that it will probably be out of business in months. I know why this is, of course, and it is not the fault of a lack of flavors. A well made salad can blow any person’s palate away. There are two simple, yet significant, differences between McDonald's and SaladBowl. The obvious one is health - I don’t need to convince anyone that McDonald's is not real food, and we all know from our mothers forcing broccoli onto our plates that fresh veggies are what we should be eating. The second difference is cost (watch Food, Inc. on Netflix immediately!). A BigMac at McDonald's will cost you $3.40. My salad was $9.57! So is it any surprise that so many people choose the BigMac over the lettuce? With the minimum wage being less than $9.00/hour, it is no wonder so many people do not want to work a full day just to afford their family’s dinner that night.  I will not even attempt to unveil how sad this makes me; how disgusted and devastated I am that a family with no health insurance is obligated to become unhealthier still as they cannot afford the groceries that health nuts (such as myself, I admit, at times) continuously advise.

We see Community Clients and Guests come to us on a regular basis with health and nutrition needs that have only deteriorated over the years as they struggled to afford housing. Thanks to our generous donors and volunteers, LPCS is able to provide regular meals to our Guests and classes on Health and Nutrition as well; but what about the people who do not have access to these amenities? What about the people that come to us with health already so bad, it takes more than a sudden change in diet to solve? What can we do?

The simple answer is – I do not have the answer! I appreciate that we cannot change the supply and demand of the food industry overnight, nor can I convince McDonald's Corporate to have a complete overhaul of their menu and practices (have they even been reading my letters?).  I implore you to help me satisfy my neurotic, healthy eating desires and come up with ideas! Any ideas, small or grand, can help. How can we better meet the healthy eating and affordability needs of our Guests and our Community Clients?

I do know one thing (thank goodness, she knows one thing, you may be thinking). Rather than sit idly, we will walk. We will run. We will embarrass ourselves by attempting to do yoga in the parks. We will provide classes on nutrition, health, obesity, diabetes, and so forth. We will encourage healthy eating and provide it as frequently as possible. You can help too! When you come to cook a meal, you can provide heart healthy and balanced foods. You can teach a class on yoga or help lead a walking club. You can make food donations to LPCS on Clark Street for our Have a Heart Drive that are fulfilling and low in sodium. As a team, with new ideas and a reiteration of the old ones, we can have a healthier community yet!

Please comment on this post if you have any ideas, or email me at MFreebeck@lpcsonline, if you would like to get involved in making a healthier LPCS. In the meantime, enjoy this salsa recipe, courtesy of my kitchen.

By: Meghan Freebeck, Community Relations Manager
Homemade Salsa Recipe:

3 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small green bell pepper, seeds and veins removed, and minced
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles with juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine and enjoy!

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