Food bank takes new approach to feeding the hungry

Michelle Wulfson | The ItemChristine Shippey and Sharonda Evans introduced their newly renovated Food For Change Market at Covenant with Christ Walker County and a new program helping patrons with chronic illnesses.

Covenant with Christ Walker County’s newly renovated Food For Change Market kicked off an eight week course for clients addressing chronic illnesses last week.

The Core Connections classes, in partnership with the Houston Food Bank, teaches clients with chronic illnesses how to prepare healthy foods for themselves. The course provides shopping assistance at the newly renovated Food For Change market and 30 extra pounds of groceries a month.

Market style shopping gives clients dignity and the ability to choose what they need with a different selection of items every week.

“A lot of our clients love it because they feel like they are going to a store,” said Sharonda Evans, charity relations director at Covenant with Christ Walker County.

“Just because you are getting food doesn’t mean that you’re less than … we try to make them feel welcome when they come in and feel a part of a family,” said Evans.

Evans said that the new program and market has evoked an emotional response from clients, bringing some to tears.

“We do measurements and blood pressure checks; it’s like a support group, but they get lots of training on making choices for themselves, learning how to take care of their chronic conditions and get well,” Covenant with Christ founder Christine Shippey said.

Clients can shop at the Food For Change Market twice a month with a set “prescription” to help shoppers stick to a health plan.

The “prescription” – Food RX – consists of a model where two fruits plus two vegetables equals four other healthy items (protein, whole grains, etc.).

“We saw a lot of our clients coming in with high blood pressure and diabetes … a lot of times people in need are not going to the doctor often and they are not taking their blood pressure medicine regularly,” Shippey said.

The Covenant helps the elderly who might not earn enough from social security alone to cover bills, medications and food, and the market acts as a supplement to these expenses.

“Your older crowd that’s on fixed income has to make a lot of choices and sometimes those choices are hard,” Shippey said. “It’s not uncommon for people to have to choose electric bill or medicine, food or medicine.”

In Walker County, about 14,000 families have food insecurities amounting to 22.5%. The state of Texas has 14.9%, and has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country, according to feedingamerica.org.

Food insecurity is the USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food or nutritionally valued food, for a family to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Members of the community are urged to utilize the the pantry and benefits at Covenant with Christ Walker County regardless if they are working or if they’re not even from the area; the pantry is available to those in need.

“People should not hesitate to come visit. I think sometimes it’s a pride thing…we all need help sometimes and that’s what we’re here for,” Evans said.

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