Any time is time to eat your vegetables.

Any time is time to eat your vegetables.

The Florida Department of Health in Gulf and Franklin Counties has begun a new initiative to promote healthy eating and will host food demonstrations twice a month at the Dollar General Market in Port St. Joe and the Piggly Wiggly in Apalachicola.

The demonstrations will run October through March of next year with the goal of helping local families adopt a more healthful diet and to increase fruit and vegetable consumption for proper nutrition.

To kick start the efforts, the Florida Department of Health in Gulf and Franklin counties received a collaborative Closing the Gap grant to work with coordinated community partners to promote health education, healthy life-style choices and disease prevention activities.

The Closing the Gap grants focuses on reducing and ultimately eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities.

“We wanted to develop a way to foster successful partnerships within our communities in order to improve the health of Gulf and Franklin County residents,” said Marsha Lindeman, Administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Gulf and Franklin counties.

“As a result, county Community Health Improvement Plans (CHIP) were created by community partners with goals to reduce diabetes and increase the number of adults who are at a healthy weight.”

Participants will be asked to fill out a short health survey in return for a free food sample, healthy recipe of the day and educational materials which incorporate healthy food as a prevention/control benefit. 

“We are very excited about this opportunity and collaborative effort with the Dollar Market in Port St. Joe and Piggly Wiggly in Apalachicola,” said Talitha Robinson, Heath Educator Consultant for Gulf and Franklin counties. “All food prepared during the cooking demonstration can be purchased in the store.

“Our goal is to help highlight the affordable, healthy food options available and to encourage individuals and families to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in meals.”

Robinson has been working with the Closing the Gap program since July and spoke with managers at both stores to explain the goals of the program when it came to healthy eating.

In March, Robinson made a lifestyle change that eliminated junk food and fried food from her diet, added more fruits and vegetables, and began walking three times a week.

She said that since the change, she dropped 64 pounds and has felt healthier than ever.

“Healthy eating is something that I’m passionate about,” said Robinson. “It works.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, only one in four Americans eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables every day.

Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet plus getting more exercise can reduce your risk of serious health problems like obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease and even certain types of cancer.

The next food demonstrations will take place at the Dollar General Market in Port St. Joe from 3-7 p.m. ET on Nov. 19 and 21. At the Franklin County Piggly Wiggly, demos will be held from 3-7 p.m. ET on Nov. 6 and 13.