Starting with a simple question: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have someone follow you through a grocery store and help with information and support on how to live a healthy and productive lifestyle?’ two local organizations have started a program to help Borderland residents live that type of life.
“Hunger is not just caused by a lack of food, but also a lack of human capital (including education, employment and income), social support and social capital,” said Mary Beth Harper, Executive Director of Kelly Memorial Food Pantry. “Any attempt to improve long-term food insecurity requires more than just short-term food.”
With support from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Initiative, the Kelly Memorial Food Pantry’s Fresh Start program is doing this and more.
The program is one of its kind in the region and supports individuals by addressing the root causes of hunger and focus on skills of individuals that can be used throughout their life.
“Fresh Start holds promise of addressing root causes of hunger and poor nutrition, while address food insecurity,” says Michael Kelly, Vice President of Programs with the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. “To put a spin on an old metaphor, we are handing people a fish, while teaching them to fish. Members of the program are understanding the value of healthy eating and active living, which is the goal of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s HEAL Initiative.”
Members of the program receive training in nutrition education, needs assessment and supportive coaching. Upon graduation, they set and achieve goals in areas that include: housing, employment, education, physical and mental health, citizenship and more.
After nine months of hard work, 16 members graduated and participated in the “Sunflower Ceremony” at the Kelly Memorial Food Pantry.
The ceremony is referred as the Sunflower Ceremony because the sunflower is symbolic of the members and their ceaseless commitment to seeing light and hope in their lives, just as a sunflower always faces the sun.
The celebration included dinner, a motivational speaker, member testimonials, certificate presentation and a sunflower pinning.
The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry is a volunteer operated and community supported nonprofit organization located in central El Paso, Texas. It provides a sense of food security and hope to its clients by providing nutritional basics and encouragement to prosper in life. It is the largest food pantry, serving 2,500 families per month.
Testimonials from recent graduates:
“This program not only has the heart and humility of supporting and motivating members to have a “Fresh Start.” Even more, they guide you with love while helping you put your desires and goals of life in order. I feel very happy and thankful that God put Fresh Start in my way to guide me through all the programs I need and they give me the support I need. They connect you with the many services that you need for your own personal growth.”
“I think this program has helped me. It is a motivation to do things I never thought. They have interesting classes like Diabetes Prevention and Nutrition. They motivate you to succeed in school and find work. This program is excellent for me, it has been a great help. I hope the program continues so they can help more people like me.”
“This program is good because it helps me a lot with what to eat. It has taught me how to prevent illnesses. It is good because they teach you what you should eat and to check yourself to prevent against disease. It is also good because you exercise and that is good for my health.”
“It is very interesting and very good. We benefit from it a lot. We try to eat healthier. They encourage us and help us with the help we need. I wish there were more programs like this for the community. For me, it is an excellent program.”
For more information on the Kelly Memorial Food Pantry or the Fresh Start program, call 915-261-7499.