‘Meals for Health’ program at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services a resounding success

During April, Whole Foods Market partnered with the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and EarthSave to teach a group of low-income Sacramento residents a healthier way to eat. Participants celebrated with a “graduation ceremony” on May 7.
Whole Foods Market partnered with the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and the non-profit EarthSave organization to sponsor a “Meals for Health” program that taught low-income Sacramento residents how to improve their lives through healthier food choices and exercise. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Susan Laird

Whole Foods Market partnered with the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and the non-profit EarthSave organization to sponsor a “Meals for Health” program that taught low-income Sacramento residents how to improve their lives through healthier food choices and exercise. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Susan Laird

The “Meals for Health” educational program involved lectures from national leaders in the “plant-strong” and “whole foods” areas of nutrition and exercise, physician supervision and boxes of healthy foods. It was an inaugural program at the food bank that organizers hope to learn from…and to hopefully “roll out” nationwide.

According to EarthSave, which provided the curriculum for the program, “hunger and obesity are often flip sides of the same malnutrition coin. Both hunger and obesity can be symptoms of poverty. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, bowel diseases, arthritis and a host of other degenerative conditions are rampant in communities experiencing food insecurity. Being poor and having serious health problems create nearly insurmountable obstacles to success.”

EarthSave is a nonprofit non-profit organization dedicated to helping people “make food choices that promote health, reduce health care costs and provide greater health independence.”

Participants learned from national nutrition leaders and speakers on topics such as “The Starch Solution,” “The Amazing Digestive System,” “The Pleasure Trap,” “How to Eat Whole – and Why Should I?” and “Healthy Living Made Easy.”

The results from the four week program were astonishing.

Not only did every single participant graduate from the program (organizers had anticipated up to a 30 percent dropout rate) – they thrived. On average, each of the 21 participants:

  • Dropped 30 points in total cholesterol
  • Dropped 21 points in LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Dropped 7 points in fasting blood sugar
  • Lost 17 pounds
  • Dropped 10.4/10.3 points in blood pressure

Dr. Donald Forrester, supervising physician, noted that all participants had improved skin tone, a reduced (or eliminated) need for medication, a better sense of balance and an overall better sense of well-being. Several participants, who started the program on canes, graduated on their own two feet – no walking aids necessary. One diabetic observer, who followed the guidelines for the program along with the participants, dropped 100 points in fasting blood sugar – without medication.

“No one had any complaints about the program,” Forrester said.

The Sacramento Whole Foods Market located at the corner of Arden Way and Eastern Avenue donated over $5,000 worth of whole food products that participants learned how to prepare and enjoy.

“Whole Foods Market is an active participant in the local community,” said Christina Clarke, marketing team leader for Whole Foods. “Our core values at Whole Foods Market include caring about our communities and promoting the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education. The Meals for Health Program is a great way for (us) to support community members and show our commitment to promoting healthy eating education.”

“Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services is thrilled to partner with Earth Save on the wonderfully successful and impactful Meals for Health program,” said Kelly Siefkin, communications director for the facility. “The results participants earned through modifications in their diet are tremendous. We hope to teach many individuals who access programs at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services about the benefits of eating a plant-based diet and the simple steps they can take to positively impact the health of their family.”

Leaders at EarthSave concur.

“I want to thank you for all sticking with it,” John Robbins, founder of EarthSave, told the graduates. “It’s your example that will speak to people. You are now on a pathway to health and increased opportunities. Once your eyes are opened to something – you ‘can’t not see it.’ Eating healthfully is one of the most compassionate things you can do for yourself.”

For more information and videos about the Meals for Health program in Sacramento, visit EarthSave’s website at www.EarthSave.org.

Health-challenged, low-income population goes plant-based to lose weight and reverse disease

SACRAMENTO, CA – Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) embarks on a new partnership with the EarthSave International, a non-profit organization that will launch an exciting new program called Meals For Health (MFH) on April 8, 2011. MFH is a 30-day intervention that provides low-income families with education and support to eat a healthy, low-fat, plant-strong diet in order to dramatically improve their health. There is no cost to participants and all support, food (donated by Whole Foods) and materials will be provided. MFH participants are individuals who currently receive services from one of SFBFS’ programs such as Adult Education, Mother-Baby or Women’s Wisdom Art. Health improvements, weight loss and disease reversal of MFH participants will be measured and tracked under medical supervision of physicians throughout the 30-day program. Local food coaches and dozens of volunteers will assist participants in completing their journey. Food coaches provide regular support, ongoing education, potlucks and video presentations. MFH is a health program which has been shown to reverse high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Experts on the MFH team have run similar programs and seen results in tens of thousands of participants. However, this pilot program is the first of its kind in a low-income population. The groundbreaking intervention takes a selected group of very low-income clients from SFBFS who suffer from serious health problems and turns them into plant-strong eaters. Participants learn about healthy nutrition, easy food preparation, exercise options and low cost shopping strategies in order to successfully transition their families to a healthy, unprocessed, whole food plant-strong eating style. MFH will plant seeds and spread sensible nutrition to interested families and individuals across the Sacramento community and has the potential to significantly decrease health problems while increasing energy and self esteem, across this challenged population.

The participant roster for this MFH pilot program is complete, but we invite you to SFBFS and see what new and innovative steps are being taken in our community to improve the health and wellness of those in great need. Dramatic results in blood pressure, weight and medication intake is expected by the end of April. EarthSave plans to grow MFH in the Sacramento community with subsequent waves of increasing size, as members of this early intervention groups may go on to become plant-strong leaders and coaches.

For more information about EarthSave International, please visit www.earthsave.org. For more information about Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, please visit www.sacramentofoodbank.org.