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New Food Pantry Model "Green Lights" Better Nutrition, Health


Friday, August 1, 2014   

PHILADELPHIA - People in need who walk into a new kind of food pantry in Philadelphia are walking out with bags full of food they can be sure will be good for their families.

The Green Light Food Pantry is run by the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger. While it may operate similar to other food pantries in some ways, coalition executive director Laura Wall said when it comes to the food selection it offers, there are few like it.

"It provides only healthy food," she said, "low-sodium canned vegetables and low-fat dairy, lean proteins like chicken and fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables - which is something you don't see in a lot of other pantries."

Wall said 70 percent of Philadelphia residents who use food pantries have household members with diabetes, heart disease or other diet-related health issues. She said that has created an urgent need for healthier food choices.

The coalition is supplementing the Green Light program with nutrition education and health screenings - and Wall said tasting events help get as many family members on board as possible.

"Some little kids especially will look at a head of broccoli and think, 'I'm not eating that.' So when we do a tasting, the kids suddenly think, 'Oh yeah - no, that's great, I'll do that!' And that's very helpful as well," Wall said, "to change the perception of the next generation."

Wall said the Green Light Food Pantry clearly has filled a void, and the coalition already is considering some spinoffs in the future.

"One of the things that we're going to be doing this year is to look at how we can replicate it and make this model available to other communities," she said, "so that they can take it and adapt it to their own particular needs and really keep it going."

The healthier foods are more expensive, but Wall said they offer benefits over cheaper food items that may be high in salt, sugar and fat.

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