St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry staff introduce healthy foods initiative

Posted at 10:18 PM, Jan 10, 2020

BOISE, Idaho — For many, the new year means new resolutions for living a healthier lifestyle. Now, one nonprofit is tapping into that line of thinking by working to help their pantry guests eat healthier: staff at the food pantry at St. Vincent de Paul Southwest Idaho (SVdPID) are introducing an initiative to improve the food choices people make at the pantry.

"Many people that we work with have never had good cooking and good habits like cooking healthy modeled for them," said Ralph May, executive director, SVdPID.

They're now hoping to be that model for the roughly 1,000 pantry guests who visit the Overland Road location to pick up free groceries every month.

"Nutrition can affect mental health, it can affect overall health - there are so many things that are tied together," said May.

Oftentimes, people who are in transition or are struggling unfairly face more barriers to eating healthy.

"Fast food and some of the prepared meals are very easy and quick to do, and our society kind of pushes us towards that," said May.

Unfortunately, this is problematic for a variety of health reasons.

"Poverty and financial stress does contribute to a shorter life expectancy and lot of that has to do with nutrition."

But May wants to show pantry guests that with the additional produce and healthy foods you can now receive at the Overland Food Pantry, neither money nor time should be an excuse for eating poorly.

"Sometimes simply or quickly prepared meals can be also very nutritious," said May.

One way they're implementing change: they put up television monitors showing motion graphic information slides.

"So as people are waiting to get food, they're able to see information about programs that we have here, but also nutrition information," said May.

They also put up posters affirming the benefits of healthy choices -- "depicting good nutrition both in English and in Spanish," said May.

Additionally, they added a resource board which includes grab-n-go recipes for nutritious meals.

"It's a very popular thing -- it's very difficult to keep it stocked because people are constantly taking the recipes," said May.

He also says they're now hosting free health screenings, thanks to a partnership with Terry Reilly. And soon, they'll host cooking classes. These efforts are all designed with hopes of giving more Idahoans a better shot at leading healthy lives.

"Better habits," said May. "We all wanna change our habits [in the] new year. It's time for a better life -- and doing better in our life."

May says the majority of the people who are coming to their food pantry are shopping for a family, which is an even stronger motivating force for them to get the program fully implemented, because by promoting healthier habits, they hope to affect healthy change for generations to come.

To donate or learn more about SVdPI and their pantry, visit their website.