Fresh Produce Helped Mary Get Healthy

Mary header

August 2, 2018 By: Tina Mortimer Category: Hunger Stories

Mary has lived in the Frogtown neighborhood of Saint Paul her entire life. For nearly 40 years, she was a preschool teacher. She and her husband did well. But Mary wasn’t healthy. She was overweight. She wasn’t eating right. After she developed a hernia, her doctor told her she had to lose weight or risk serious damage to her health.

Being retired and low-income, Mary and her husband have long participated in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), a federally funded food resource for older Americans. Once a month, they visit Second Harvest Heartland for a box of nutritious food that includes canned fruits and juices, American cheese, canned meat, peanut butter or dried beans, cereal, rice and pasta. But despite the nutritious food the box provides, Mary struggled to follow a healthy diet. 

Fresh fruits and vegetables — essential to any diet, but especially to someone trying to lose weight — were in short supply in her neighborhood and too expensive to purchase in the store.

Mary knew how important it was to modify her eating habits, but she found it hard to change — until last year when she discovered the variety of fresh produce offered once a week through the Fresh Produce Distribution program at her local church.

“When I heard that the [Frogtown] Neighborhood Association and St. Stephanus Church were offering free and fresh vegetables right here in Frogtown, I started coming every week.”

Soon after bringing home her first bag of fresh produce from the distribution — a bag full of zucchini, peppers, apples, watermelon and tomatoes — Mary began to lose the weight.

“I love the potatoes and cucumbers and everything I get at the distribution,” she said. “It really helps low-income families who are struggling financially. And it helped me start to eat better.”

The Fresh Produce Distribution program, now in its second year in the Frogtown community, has helped Mary change her life. Today, she is nearly 40 pounds lighter. And she not only continues to participate in the program, she’s also become a regular volunteer.

“These people have helped me and my community so much, I just felt that I needed to give back,” she said. “I love helping people. It makes me feel good to be here.”

Funded by UnitedHealthcare, the Fresh Produce Distribution Partnership helps local food shelves bring produce distributions to high-need areas by providing support through funding, volunteers, funding and, of course, produce.

Volunteer at a fresh distribution site

Volunteers, like Mary, set up the distribution, sort food, greet clients as they arrive and hand the food to the clients. Some volunteers may be asked to assist in minimal client tracking. Instructions and training will be provided on site. If you’re interested in volunteering, it’s quick and easy to schedule a shift online, visit our volunteer calendar and sign up.

If you need help with food, visit us online to find a local produce distribution or food shelf.


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