Health on wheels comes to Suffolk

Published 10:37 pm Monday, March 11, 2013

Suffolk’s ignominious reputation for having some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the state is not something to be proud of, but it is something many community organizations are working to reverse.

In addition to the efforts of health providers, the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community, Healthy People/Healthy Suffolk, the Obici Healthcare Foundation, the American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association, among others, one other organization recently stepped up its efforts to help encourage Suffolk and Western Tidewater residents to live healthy.

The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia began in January providing a healthy mobile pantry service to Suffolk. A slight variation of its mobile pantry, which delivers food to those who need it and cannot make it to the organization’s headquarters in Norfolk, the healthy mobile pantry stocks only foods that are considered diabetic-friendly or heart-healthy, such as low-sodium and whole-wheat varieties of some foods.

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Compounding the dual problems of hunger and poor health is that cheap food often isn’t healthy, and healthy food often isn’t cheap. Whole-grain pasta costs more than regular pasta. Cheap canned vegetables and soup — items often given out by food banks — are often loaded with sodium as a preservative.

The foodbank, having recognized these issues, is doing Suffolk a great service by providing the healthy mobile pantry. But even better, its visit this week will feature a special treat.

Folks who stop by the mobile pantry at the Salvation Army, 400 Bank St., from 9:30 to 11 a.m. on Friday will be able to taste-test a healthy batch of chicken lentil soup and will receive recipe cards so they can replicate it at home. The taste-testing will occur periodically throughout the year during healthy mobile pantry visits, which are set for the third Friday of every month. Food recipients do not have to prove any income eligibility requirements to receive food from the healthy mobile pantry.

The health situation in Suffolk did not develop overnight, and it will not be easily undone. But working together, all these local organizations and the citizenry can solve the problem.