Altru Dietitians Volunteer at Hope Community Care Center & Food Pantry to Fight Food Insecurity – Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — Altru dietitians have been volunteering at Hope Community Care Center & Food Pantry and LaGrave on First through the Prescription Nutrition Program since the fall of 2021.

Typically, volunteers will be at each location on the first and third Wednesday of each month between 10 a.m. and noon. A volunteer will set up a table there to meet food pantry participants to educate them about the healthy food choices available to them.

With funds from the Altru Foundation, Prescription Nutrition, based on the “Fresh Food Farmacy” concept of the Geisinger Health Program, was born. It was created to make healthy foods more accessible and appealing to those who are food insecure in order to promote healthy lifestyles and improve access to healthy foods.

When people come to use the Hope Community Care Center & Food Pantry, a volunteer screens them to find out their needs and if they have any concerns about any conditions they may have, such as pre-diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. . Volunteers also check to see if participants have access to other food sources besides a pantry, as well as if they need help getting food or finding nutrition education.

Sam Rongstad, an Altru volunteer at the Hope Community Care Center & Food Pantry, said it was organized like a grocery store.

“What we could do, and what we’ve offered in the past, is walk them around while they shop, talk about their health and nutrition concerns, and then give them (give) some advice if they’re looking for that,” Rongstad said.

Once the screening period is over, Rongstad said the plan is to provide additional screenings for blood pressure and blood sugar.

“Then we can provide them with education, either by talking to them one-on-one about their concerns and giving them nutrition education, or also providing them with nutrition materials that they can take with them,” Rongstad said.

Dietitians also promote a specific recipe each month when they are in the pantry. Rongstad said he discussed recipes with Melanie Newman-Morrow, assistant director of the Hope Community Care Center & Food Pantry. Usually the recipes include dry goods, such as beans, lentils, pasta or canned tuna or canned chicken and are simple to prepare.

“(We) create healthier meals that people walking into the pantry can try at home,” Rongstad said.

According to Rongstad, the biggest issue facing food insecure people in Grand Forks is access to healthy, non-perishable produce. While canned fruits and vegetables can be healthy, she said it comes down to the healthiest food options and shelf life.

Those who visit a food pantry may only have access to it occasionally, sometimes even once a month. Rongstad said those people would likely choose to buy items that would last at least until they can visit a pantry again — things like dry pasta, bread and freezer items.

Not having the proper appliances needed to cook certain foods is also a problem. Rongstad said some people frequenting the pantries clashed.

“Fresh produce is something they probably won’t go first,” Rongstad said. “One, because it’s not going to last long, and two, because sometimes they don’t even know what to do with it – how to break it down, how to season it (and) how to prepare it. So that’s another reason why we provide them with these recipes.

Rongstad said that to his knowledge, about 200 or more people regularly use the Hope Community Care Center & Food Pantry. So what can people do to help or get involved?

“The Hope Food Pantry is always looking for volunteers to help pass through and shop with their customers as they walk in,” Rongstad said. “In fact, volunteering at one of the pantry would be very helpful, as they are always looking for that community involvement.”

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