Eating healthy on a tight budget can seem daunting.
Some North Texas community nutrition programs teach people how to stretch their food budget without sacrificing health and wellness.
Erica Chase wants to adopt healthier habits. She’s 25 years old and has four children. Three-year-old twins, a two-year-old and a one-year-old.
“There’s days where I go without eating so they can eat," she says.
Chase is unemployed and counts on government assistance to make sure her little ones have plenty of food. Even with that extra boost, she says her pantry empties quickly.
The class she's attending is all about controlling portion size; balancing meat, dairy, grains, fruits and veggies; even working in a little more exercise.
Cheryl Miller is a Texas A&M Agrilife extension agent for Dallas County. She oversees the expanded food nutrition education program and says there are countless reasons families decide to take a class like this.
“To learn basic nutrition information to eat healthier to cook healthier, how to stretch their food dollars, how to shop better, learn that it is important to make a shopping list when you go shopping," she says.
Investing In Health To Save Down The Road
There are just over 700 families in Dallas County enrolled in this type of nutrition class, and according to Texas A&M, every dollar spent on education saves $2 in food costs and $10 on healthcare.
For low-income folks, learning how to make every dollar count at the grocery store is essential. The Concilio, a Dallas nonprofit focused on health and education, has a special activity called, “the $5 challenge” to help families learn how to cook for a crowd without breaking the bank.
“We teach them how to prepare a healthy meal for four people," says Prisma Garcia, Director of Community Health for The Concilio "And we take them to the grocery store and provide the $5, and then we get them to prepare the food.”
Inspiring Families To Succeed
She says sometimes the meal is roast chicken legs with steamed broccoli. Or a simple breakfast of yogurt, fresh fruit and granola.
It’s an empowering exercise, she says, for low-income families often overwhelmed by everything on their to-do list.
“The reality is that these families are overextended because maybe they have two jobs just to maintain the house at the level they are doing so. They don’t maybe have transportation, they live in certain areas where in reality it’s a food desert.”
And that’s one of the toughest things about eating healthy on a tight budget; access to fresh food.
While many underserved North Texas neighborhoods come with plenty of corner stores and fast food joints-- high quality grocery stores are harder to find.
Thanks to classes like these? Nutrition education is much easier to access.