Healthy eating emphasized in food donation boxes

November 21, 2011 5:44:03 PM PST
Hundreds of people lined up outside Sacred Heart Community Services at 1st & Alma streets in San Jose Monday morning as boxes of food, including turkeys or chicken, were distributed to economically challenged residents for the Thanksgiving holiday. But the boxes are different this year -- while they contain the usual canned goods, there is a new emphasis this year on fresh produce as part of a campaign to encourage healthier eating.

A projected 4,000 boxes of food will be distributed by appointment through Wednesday, provided Sacred Heart can raise the money to purchase 1,300 more turkeys or chicken. This is the 47th year of its holiday food program, and executive director Poncho Guevara says the need has never been greater because of the economy. He expects a 14 percent increase in demand over previous years, part of which is the result of more seniors seeking help.

Sacred Heart, funded in part by the non-profit Health Trust, has held classes and workshops for 100 families this year to teach nutrition and to help them learn how to grow fresh produce in back yard gardens. The tomatoes, bell peppers, squash and other crops can then be shared with neighbors and other family members. The program, called La Mesa Verde or "green table," says the initiative helps to wean participants away from fast food and carbohydrates and to foster eating habits that will lead to better health.