ACTIVE Louisville received a Healthy Eating by Design pilot grant to increase access to healthy foods for children in low income communities. The Louisville HEbD partnership started things right by connecting with Nancy Russman, a local chef and healthy food advocate who has made healthy food education her mission.
Chef Nancy has worked in the ACTIVE Louisville target neighborhoods for years, and began teaching HEbD cooking classes in June 2005 at the Freedom School summer program in the downtown Louisville Smoketown neighborhood to 20 kids aged 6 though 12. They created many delicious and healthy meals together each week. Chef Nancy introduced kiwis, cucumbers and other fruits and veggies as new snack options for the children. The kids created their own concoctions of tortillas, peanut butter and raisins. When they had an active hand in creating their food, the kids saw how much fun a healthy and tasty snack can be. The children also drew pictures of their favorite food and were quizzed at the end of the course on all of the new fruits and vegetables they had tried.
The HEbD initiative also tested whether recipients of WIC vouchers for low-income women, infants, and children would use them at the Smoketown Farmer’s Market. Current Kentucky regulations do not allow WIC vouchers to be used in urban settings, limiting their use at farmer’s markets in rural areas. In some low-income neighborhoods, the farmer’s market is the only place to find fresh vegetables and fruits. To address this healthy eating barrier, the Louisville HEbD partnership offered $10 vouchers for fruits or vegetables from the Farmer’s Market all summer long. By the end of the summer, there were over 200 participants. The Louisville HEbD partnership plans on presenting the results of the voucher pilot to the state in order to modify the regulations restricting WIC voucher use in urban farmer’s markets.
In addition to the vouchers, the HEbD partnership worked with Chef Nancy to provide cooking demonstrations and provide recipe cards at the market each weekend. The recipes use fresh food like summer squash and onions from the market in a healthy, easy and delicious way.
The cooking classes and demonstrations are continuing this fall for single mothers and children over 10 in the neighborhood at the Presbyterian Community Center. The course lasts six weeks, covering how to plan and shop for healthy foods, how to read nutrition labels, and how to create simple, healthy and delicious meals with affordable ingredients.
Much of the success and excitement surrounding these programs is due to Chef Nancy Russman, who understands the importance of delicious food and healthy eating. Her passion to increase choices and access to healthy food for children in low-income neighborhoods is matched only by her cooking abilities and energy to make tasty meals for all.