Impacts in healthy eating felt from Presby’s Cupboards of Care program

December 05, 2017

The program allows Affordable Housing residents access to gift cards to purchase healthy foods and change eating habits.

When Robert Nowell goes grocery shopping, he makes a list and only buys what’s on it. These days, that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and lean meats. Robert is a resident at Ann Thomas Apartments, one of the Affordable Housing communities on Presby’s 58th Street campus in South Philadelphia, and is a participant in the organization’s Cupboards of Care program.

Cupboards of Care is an initiative that provides $100 gift cards on a quarterly basis to enable Presby residents to purchase healthy food.

“Since I started with the Cupboards of Care program, I’ve lost 20 pounds, and my blood pressure is much better,” Robert said.. “I’m now cooking healthier meals and feel really good about what I’ve accomplished since this program started.”

Cupboards of Care was started by Presby over a year ago after receiving a grant from the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust and several other family foundations. More than 73 percent of residents in Presby’s sponsored Affordable Housing communities report annual incomes below $10,000 a year. The goal is to help mitigate food insecurities and to provide financial support for individuals across the Affordable Housing communities so the residents may purchase healthy food.

To date, more than $117,000 has been raised for the program.

“In the past year, we’ve been able to provide the $100 gift cards to 58 residents each quarter,” said Lynn Johnson-Porter, vice president of philanthropy at Presby. “This is really just part of our ministry to provide a better life for older adults, and we’d really like to reach even more individuals.”

According to a report on hunger in Philadelphia, conducted in 2015 by the Public Health Management Corporation, more than 32,000 seniors reported that they cut out meals due to a lack of money. The survey also indicated that seniors find it difficult to find fresh vegetables and fruits in their neighborhoods.

Presby has partnered with FLIK Lifestyles, a senior living dining services provider, to take Cupboards of Care beyond just providing gift cards. A nutritionist with FLIK has been holding educational workshops at the Affordable Housing communities to share healthy recipes and discuss the benefits of eating lean meats, fruits and vegetables.

“It’s been so rewarding to see how appreciative the residents are in helping reeducate them on making healthy smart choices when it comes to meals,” said Briana Waldie, a FLIK Lifestyles nutritionist. “Most people think healthy food is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be, and that’s one thing I’m sharing with the participants in the program.”

Robert says he’s enjoyed the educational sessions, and as a result, is being more adventurous in his eating habits. As an example, he’s buying and eating squash and asparagus and even makes faux mashed potatoes with turnips.

“I’ve discovered that food lasts much longer when you prepare meals at home instead of going out to just pick up something like fast food,” Robert said. “For me, it’s all about eating right and staying away from the unhealthy food now.”