As we celebrate a year of providing free, healthy food to those in need through our Fresh Connect Program, we are buoyed by the stories we hear from clients whose health has improved since the program began. We are not surprised. Eating healthy foods has health benefits for everyone, especially those living with compromised health. Often for those who are poor, fresh fruits and vegetables are not an option; they compromise their family’s health in some cases to pay rent or an electric bill, or purchase medicine.
Since last April, the Bucks County Opportunity Council, in partnership with Philabundance, St. Mary Medical Center, Rolling Harvest Food Rescue, and with generous funding from the United Way of Bucks County, has provided farm fresh foods each week at two sites in Bucks County: Bristol and Ottsville. Plans are underway to open a third site in Warminster in June.
Almost from the beginning last Spring, we heard stories from the people in line about how much better they were feeling, and how the healthy eating was the catalyst for other healthy behaviors, such as added exercise, especially walking. Lower blood pressure, a doctor’s approval to cut cholesterol medicine dosages, healthier joints, and generally feeling better were all reported.
A great deal of research has been devoted to the fact that children who are hungry find it difficult to concentrate and learn in school. Other studies show that those who do not have the proper balance of nutrients are more at risk of arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. People who lack reliable access to healthy food are responsible for $77.5 billion a year in excess health care expenditures nationally, according to a recent Washington Post article that drew a connection between a lack of nutritious foods and disease.
A total of 1,446 households have benefitted from the Fresh Connect Program this year: 1,283 children, 2,054 adults and 817 seniors. In total, over 198,500 pounds of free food was distributed. The program is possible because of the 162 volunteers who show up each week and have committed over 1,490 hours to the program to date. It is truly a community effort.
Fresh Connect has encouraged community as well– social capital. As they gather each week to pick up their food, neighbors share recipes and news of other resources in the neighborhood. Nutritionists from St. Mary Medical Center, Rolling Harvest and Doylestown Health provide samples of a healthy recipe using some of the ingredients that will be distributed that day.
There are 57,000 Bucks County residents who are hungry; 32% of them are children. In addition to our Fresh Connect locations, we coordinate distribution of food to over 60 locations in Bucks County where over 71,000 visits were recorded last year. In addition, BCOC delivers senior food boxes to 430 seniors every month.
To volunteer, find location details, or make a donation to support Fresh Connect, visit our website at www.bcoc.org.