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Mission Marshall Food Pantry nudges residents toward healthier living

By Caleb Brabham
April 22, 2017 at 4 a.m.

A client of the Marshall Food Pantry fills a basket.

Mission Marshall Food Pantry Director Heather Miller said she believes that all many people need to start down the path to a healthy lifestyle is a nudge - not a push. Earlier this year the pantry began to institute a healthy food "nudge" program started by the East Texas Food Bank.

"It's called a nudge because you're not forcing someone to (choose) a healthier option," Miller said, adding the Nudges program increases the exposure of the pantry's clientele to produce and healthier items. "Food Nudges have been a program with the East Texas Food Bank for about two years."

Miller said that as one of the larger local food banks, the Mission Marshall Food Pantry, at 2109 S. Washington, was eventually approached by the ETFB to be a part of the program.

"They came, looked at our pantry and gave us some pointers on how to rearrange things. Then they started looking at our clientele, (including age health issues, etc.)."

Miller said ETFB provided the pantry with a commercial-size cooler, two additional produce stands and healthy recipes for clients using ingredients to be provided by the panty.

"I have always tried to order healthier things - lower sodium things and whole grain (items) - (in order) to have a healthier variety of stuff," Miller said. "We also get the typical store donation of dairy and produce."

Miller said the nudge program acknowledges that being healthy is often expensive and works to alleviate the problem.

"These are things that people can't typically afford - nobody wants to pay $5 for a pound of grapes or $3 for a gallon of milk. It's not rational," Miller said, adding in the past clients would not get a healthy food item because they needed other items instead. "We don't want them to worry about it counting towards their food number. All of the produce, dairy, eggs and milk are bonus items that don't count towards the items their family are allowed to have.

"They can come in on the days that we have these, which is typically Monday evenings and Wednesdays. Along with 20 items for a two-person family, they can get an additional 10 more items."

Miller said the program works well with assisting those who have medical concerns.

"When they come through they know to look for those items if they have dietary needs," Miller said, noting the pantry is sensitive to diabetics, those looking to lose weight, the glucose intolerant, lactose intolerant and heart disease patients. "We have found that most of our clients have some form of a health issue. We also have a lot of clients who have failure to thrive babies because they are not getting the proper nutrition or they are extremely obese because all (their parents) can afford is ramen noodles and bread."

Miller said her clientele have noticed significant changes in their lifestyle through the program.

"We now have people coming in and asking where our low sodium (items) are," Miller said. "We had one lady come in and say she had lost a lot of weight just by making healthier choices. She was so thankful we've changed up things and provided healthier options."

For more information on Mission Marshall call (903) 472-4944.



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