Project Believe Helps Inner City Families Achieve Healthier Eating

July 30, 2002

A new program to motivate inner city African American mothers and grandmothers to make sound nutritional food choices and prepare healthy meals for their children is receiving accolades from its participants. The Rochester Family Nutrition Initiative, a collaboration between The Center for Rochester's Health and the Nutrition Program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County will provide basic nutritional information to at-risk populations and evaluate whether the program results in healthier eating. The program is funded by Project Believe, the University of Rochester Medical Center's initiative to help Rochester become America's healthiest community by 2020. In six one-hour sessions, delivered by a health counselor, a variety of nutrition topics are addressed, along with tips on how low-income families can afford healthy foods. At the end of the six weeks, all participants are taken on a guided tour of a supermarket by a registered dietician to see first-hand how to select and afford healthy food choices, and then are given a $50 gift card so they can put their knowledge immediately to work. In addition, women who fit a "high-risk" profile as determined by body weight and incidences of a chronic disease such as hypertension or diabetes, are offered individual counseling with a registered dietician. According to Nancy Bennett, M.D., M.S., clinical associate professor at the University of Rochester, deputy director of the Monroe County Health Department and director of the Center for Rochester's Health, unhealthy nutritional habits are linked to the most common causes of death and disability in our society: obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes. Bennett and her team developed the program to target the African American community after a local survey funded by the Health Department documented a large disparity in dietary patterns here in Rochester. "Our research showed that 37 percent of African Americans reported whole milk as the type used most often versus seven percent of Caucasians. Thirty-seven percent of African Americans reported seldom or never purchasing lean or low-fat meat versus 15 percent among Caucasians," Bennett said. "By educating participants on the value of making healthy food choices, and then showing them how to do it, we believe we can help participants - and their families - begin to achieve a healthier lifestyle." Rochester Family Nutrition Initiative/add 2-2-2 To date, more than 200 women have participated in the program at 17 sites, including churches and community centers. Another 50 women will enroll and complete the program within the next three months. A detailed questionnaire filled out by participants before the sessions begin helps counselors from Cornell Cooperative Extension Nutrition Program tailor information to meet the needs and interest of the group.

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Germaine Reinhardt
(585) 275-6517
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