Serving up good nutrition
Stop by a Mercy LIFE day center some days, and you’ll spot tables set up with an array of fresh fruits and vegetables brought in by local nonprofit Share Food Program.
You’ll also see participants eager to look over the crates of produce for sale at affordable prices. You may think you’ve stumbled on an indoor farmers market. But it’s really part of how Mercy LIFE helps ease the challenge of living in what’s called a food desert.
Food deserts are parts of the country where produce and other healthy foods are often scarce. They include some urban neighborhoods, like some areas in Philadelphia. For many seniors in the Mercy LIFE program, it’s difficult to get to a grocery store that stocks nutritious foods at affordable prices.
Healthy eating on the menu
Hosting the produce vendors once or twice a month isn’t the only way Mercy LIFE helps connect seniors to healthier choices, notes Ed Kratowitcz, RD, MPH, a dietitian with Mercy LIFE.
Wholesome breakfasts and lunches are served to some 250 people each day at Mercy LIFE centers. A variety of fruit, vegetables and fresh salad is on the menu every day. And Mercy LIFE arranges van rides to a super Walmart so seniors can bring home healthy groceries.
But it’s not just about making nutritious foods handy. “It’s also about empowering seniors,” says Donna Raziano, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Mercy LIFE. “And it’s about encouraging healthier choices over convenient, fat-rich foods more often.”
Although produce days are just a small part of Mercy LIFE’s focus on good nutrition, the affordable fresh fruits and vegetables do make a big difference.
“Seniors love it,” Kratowitcz says. “There’s always a line of participants waiting to buy things.”
See what’s cooking this month
You can read the November menu of foods served at a Mercy LIFE center near you. Visit mercylife.org and click on “LIFE Day Centers.”