Food Demonstrations a Hit at Healthy Neighborhood Stores

June 27th, 2013 by Live Well Omaha Kids

This guest blog is authored by MJ Adams, a UNL Extension Assistant
who teaches food and nMJHNSutrition education at eight Healthy Neighborhood Stores (HNS) through food demonstrations that are partially funded by Alegent Creighton Health/Live Well Omaha Kids. These HNS are located in Omaha neighborhoods where access to healthy foods like fresh produce, low-fat milk and lean protein is limited.  MJ shows store patrons that healthy foods are available and affordable by hosting food demonstrations and providing information, food samples and recipes.  Store owners and customers have raved about the difference she is making within their communities.

The HNS are made possible by the Douglas County Health Department, Live Well Omaha and UNL Extension and Funding from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). 

What is the most rewarding part of providing educational food demonstrations at the HNS?

MJ: It is when customers rush over to my demo table with a look of amazement that healthy foods could smell and look so good.  But, it is really after tasting the food they are so impressed and convinced that healthy foods really taste as good as they smell and look; they immediately ask for the recipes so that they may make them at home.

What foods have you seen customers buy because of your food demonstrations?

MJ: Customers are making healthier food choices. For example, because of the milk tasting I had in the stores, some customers have gone from drinking whole milk to drinking 2% milk.  Other customers have gone from drinking 2% to drinking 1% milk.  There are even a few customers drinking skim milk, and this is all because of the milk demo in the store.

Also, because of the various fruit and veggie demos the customers are purchasing more dark green lettuce, carrots, broccoli, spinach, bananas, grapes, pineapples, strawberries nuts, blueberries and mangoes. This is just to name a few. Most of the customers buy canned or fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season, because it more economical for them.HNS logo

Have any customers, seen an improvement in their health because of foods they are eating more or less of a result of your food demonstrations?

MJ: Customers return to me on a continual bases to thank me and ‘Bless’ me because of numerous reasons. While at one of community stores, a customer had come over to my demo table complaining about her eating habits; it seemed she had a passion for ice cream and cake.  I had made ‘Yogurt Parfait’ which I gave her a sample of. She loved it. Also, I gave her various salads and other healthy recipes which I had with me. The same customer returned to inform me she had started eating healthier, like including more vegetables, fish in her diet. She had wanted to loose some of the weight, and she did. She said she felt much better.

There was another customer that had children, but did not know how to cook. She fed her children high fat and sugar snack foods for dinner. I introduce her to ways to make a variety of easy recipes. Gradually she has started preparing healthier meals for her children.

Once a customer came over to my demo the day I had made tilapia, mixed vegetables and sweet potatoes. He complained that his elderly mother did not like what he was cooking. Therefore she was not eating. His mother just happened to be waiting for him in the car. So he took out a food sample for her to try. He returned telling me his mother loved the food and asked for the recipe. I also gave him one of our calendar that contained many easy, inexpensive and healthy recipes.

Try this easy and tasty recipe for your next family dinner!
Tomato and Basil Pasta

4 servings
2 c. tomatoes or 1 (14.5 oz.) can tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
6 oz. angel hair pasta, uncooked
1 tsp. dried basil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp. pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, mix tomatoes, basil, garlic, pepper, and salt.
2. Cook angel hair pasta according to package directions, omitting oil and salt.
3. Drain pasta and add tomato mixture.
4. Serve immediately.  Top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 190, Total Fat 1.5 g (2% DV), Saturated Fat 0 g (0% DV), Cholesterol 0 mg (0% DV), Sodium 290 mg (12% DV), Total Carbohydrate 43 g (14% DV), Dietary Fiber 1 g (6% DV), Sugars 6 g, Protein 4 g, Vitamin A 4%, Vitamin C 15%, Calcium 6%, Iron 10%.

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