Everyone knows how important it is to consume fruits and vegetables, but actually doing it is another story. Increasingly hectic lifestyles often leave time-starved consumers sitting in fast food drive-thru lines instead of at their kitchen tables.
A program developed last year in six New York counties by the Healthy Start Partnership and the Cornell Cooperative Extension aims to make eating fruits and veggies easier for families by inspiring them with “meals-of-the-month” that have been chosen to emphasize kid-friendly foods that take advantage of seasonal, locally grown produce.
The Eat Well, Eat Local, Eat Together (Eat³) campaign features healthy meals families can make and enjoy together. Cornell Extension staff involved in Eat³ distribute the meal-of-the-month recipes and post cards with fridge magnets reminding families to “Eat Well, Eat Local, and Eat Together.” In addition, families are directed to www.eat3.org, where they can register and enter to win a $50 grocery store gift card. The site includes additional recipes, as well as nutrition information, tips, and games, and an opportunity to share comments and questions. Extension members also provide local papers with articles about Eat³, including recipes.
According to Christine Olson, professor in the division of nutritional sciences at Cornell, 180 people have registered on www.eat3.org. “Based on the feedback received on the website in response to the question, ‘What did you like the best about the Eat Well, Eat Local, Eat Together program?’ many individuals reported liking the recipes as well as the focus on affordable and kid-friendly options that are local and healthy,” she says.
What’s unique about the program, Olson adds, is that its messages go beyond what to eat. “Messages also urge families to consider where their food comes from and the social settings in which food is consumed,” she explains. “It provides more comprehensive advice than a typical nutrition message that is often narrowly focused on nutrients to the exclusion of foods.”
Currently there are no plans in place to expand the program beyond this year or to other geographical areas, Olson says, but other areas of the country could adopt the campaign’s overall concepts. The program’s main goal is to encourage healthier eating, and Olson says when families eat home-cooked meals together, they generally eat better. And that’s not the only benefit. “Buying locally produced foods means the dollars stay within the local community and contribute to its economic vitality,” she says.