Foodbank to give healthy taste test

Published 10:25 pm Friday, March 8, 2013

Folks visiting the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia’s healthy mobile pantry in Suffolk next week will be able to get more than just healthy food.

For the first time, the pantry will bring samples of a healthy dish — in this case, chicken lentil soup — for patrons to taste-test. Visitors will receive recipe cards and nutrition information on the soup so they will be able to replicate it at home.

The healthy mobile pantry program began coming to Suffolk in January. Recognizing that it is difficult for lower-income families to eat healthy, and that Suffolk has high rates of diabetes and heart disease, the foodbank has stocked the special pantry with items that are considered either diabetic-friendly or heart-healthy. Offerings include low-sodium canned vegetables, low-sodium soup and whole-wheat pasta.

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“Access to healthy vegetables and things like that is a challenge for people who are economically disadvantaged,” said Renee Figurelle, chief operating officer for the foodbank. “The challenge is whole grain pasta costs more than regular pasta. Low-sodium soup costs more. Low-sugar peanut butter costs more.”

The soup will be produced from the foodbank’s recipe by a caterer who used to work in the hospital industry and so has experience with special diets, Figurelle added.

The healthy mobile food pantry is sponsored by a number of local organizations, including Healthy People/Healthy Suffolk, the Salvation Army, Obici Healthcare Foundation, American Diabetes Association and Western Tidewater Free Clinic.

“We’re all working together to make Suffolk a healthier community,” Figurelle said. “Even with us buying (the food) in large volumes, the cost of purchasing these heart- and diabetic-friendly foods was an additional cost for us, so they were willing to help support us.”

The healthy mobile food pantry visits Suffolk at the Salvation Army, 400 Bank St., the third Friday of every month, Figurelle said. The taste-testings will occur four times this year at intervals.

Surveys also will be distributed next week so patrons can request items and give other feedback, she said.

Unlike most foodbank services, the healthy mobile pantry does not distribute any U.S. Department of Agriculture products, so there is no income reporting requirement for the distribution.

“If someone comes up and tells us they are in need, they get food,” Figurelle said. “We take your word.”

The healthy mobile pantry will visit the Salvation Army, 400 Bank St., on Friday, March 15, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. For more information, visit