This post was contributed by a community member.
The Partnership for Healthy Eating, a new initiative developed to combat rising trends in obesity and diabetes from poor nutritional habits by improving peoples’ eating habits and their overall health, has formed in Englewood, New Jersey. The Community Chest, the lead agency, launched the partnership in collaboration with the Center for Food Action, Englewood Health (formerly Englewood Hospital and Medical Center), the Office of Concern Food Pantry at St. Cecilia Church, Age-Friendly Englewood, and the City of Englewood-Health Department.
Diabetes and Obesity Epidemic
Diabetes and obesity are serious public health concerns. The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) research shows a diabetes epidemic is sweeping the United States, with the rate of obesity increasing exponentially. If this current trend continues, the CDC anticipates the number of adults with diabetes in the country will increase from one in ten to one in five and possibly even higher, with one in three by 2050. In Bergen County, the need is evident. A 2017 County Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) found adult obesity reached 25.3%.
Nationally, 52.5% of Hispanic women and 45% of Hispanic men will acquire diabetes in their lifetimes, 20% more than Caucasians. Hispanic people are about 50% more likely to die from diabetes than Caucasians. The number of Hispanics without health insurance increased from 29% in 2013 to 40% in 2016, while the number of Caucasians without health insurance decreased.
In response to these alarming statistics, Englewood Health’s Population Health Department undertook a study to examine local residents’ needs. In Englewood, 10.9% of adults in the Englewood Health Community were diagnosed with pre-diabetes, much higher than the national average of 5.7%. According to the 2017 CHNA, Childhood obesity in Englewood is more than double the national average.
In Englewood, the study found a high number of African American and Hispanic residents, who comprise a significant portion of the city’s population, suffer from illnesses related to poor nutrition, including pre-diabetes, diabetes, and obesity.
Partnership for Healthy Eating Responds to Need
The Partnership for Healthy Eating was formed in response to this need and created a community-based nutrition education program to be offered to low-income residents of Englewood with major health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes. The Partnership’s program provides ten monthly dinners during the school year for food pantry consumers and their families. Groups of up to 40 people are brought together in accessible locations, including community rooms and houses of worship. The program is volunteer run, with chefs contributing their services and members of the community shopping for the groceries, welcoming the guests, setting up the dinner, serving the meals and cleaning up.
During the dinners, special programming is available for children of all ages to free up parents to focus on the information presented during the dinner meeting. A program on healthy eating is presented to the children to expose them at an early age to the benefits of eating healthy foods.
“The Partnership’s goal is to reach and teach 400 dinner guests how to prepare a well-balanced dinner on a limited budget. Nutritious dinners are prepared for them and their families by a team of experienced professionals, including a chef and a dietician. During the dinner, the chef demonstrates how the meal was prepared and works closely with the nutritionist to educate diners about healthy, nutritious food preparation.
“The importance of portion control, especially foods with high amounts of sugars, carbohydrates and calories, is emphasized. At the end of the dinner, guests receive recipes and a bag of food with the ingredients for the dinner to replicate at home,” said Dr. Shelly Wimpfheimer, Executive Director, The Community Chest.
The Partnership for Healthy Eating launched the first of ten free dinners to help and educate neighbors in need about the prevention of diabetes on October 25. With a crew of committed volunteers, the first dinner took place at St. Paul’s Church in Englewood. Volunteer Chef Michael Chun, owner of Fresheats, and Mary O’Connor, Manager of the Diabetes Program for Englewood Health, selected the menu, consisting of tasty and economical foods. Chef Michael also prepared the first meal and presented with O’Connor information on a range of topics, such as preparing for a trip to the supermarket by making a list after checking the refrigerator for leftovers that can be used for future meals, storing food safely, not shopping while hungry, and other issues.
To defray the costs associated with presenting the dinner programs, donations are welcome. Contributions may be made by check to The Community Chest, with a note indicating the donation is for the Partnership for Healthy Eating. Contributions may be mailed to 122 South Van Brunt Street, 2nd Floor, Englewood, New Jersey 07631. Donations are tax-deductible, as permitted by law. For more information about the Partnership for Healthy Eating, contact Shelly Wimpfheimer at (201) 568-7474, Karen Adler at (201) 248-5799, or Jennifer Yanowitz at (201) 568-2718.
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