The Franciscan Center, in partnership with The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), kicked off its own Healthy Monday campaign today to promote healthy food choices among its clients. The goal: to ensure that everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status, has access to safe, nutritious and delicious meals. With the help of celebrity chef Kim O’Donnel and CLF’s two outreach projects, Baltimore Food and Faith and the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, the Franciscan Center wants to show that providing a large variety of high quality foods for Baltimore’s hungry not only promotes dignity among its clients, but may also improve their health.
The Franciscan Center has a long legacy of feeding the poor and homeless in Baltimore. The Center serves as many as 500 meals a day. So far it has served 78 thousand meals this year alone. In an effort to promote personal dignity through healthy and sustainable living, the Franciscan Center has partnered with various local farmers, businesses, groups and organizations like CLF, the Abell Foundation, Campus Kitchens, First Fruit Farms and Wegmans Supermarket to bring healthy, organic produce and vegetables to Baltimore’s most needy in an attempt to increase the personal health of an at risk population.
According to Baltimore’s Food Policy Task Force Final Report, “Many Baltimore City residents are affected by health problems associated with a poor diet.” The Task Force also found that one in every three adults in Baltimore is obese and two out of three is considered overweight. Ed McNally, Franciscan Center Executive Director, believes that, “if we can increase the nutrition content in the food served to the City’s poorest and most disadvantaged citizens — many with or at risk for contracting disease — then we will positively impact public health.
Saint Francis of Assisi said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.” McNally added today that the Franciscan Center believes, “that you can’t serve an unhealthy meal with a smile. It is the next step; there is nothing more dignified than a nutritious meal.” Rev. Dred Scott, Pastor of St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Turner Station agrees. “At St. Matthew we are always looking at quality of life issues,” says Rev. Scott. He believes that, “if you are what you eat, then eating healthy and having access to healthy, nutritional food is a must. Our community garden has provided fresh produce to a substantial number of people in the community over the past several years at no cost.” Rev. Scott and McNally are both members of CLF’s Baltimore Food and Faith advisory board.
O’Donnel, a trained chef and author of the newly released “Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook,” took time off from her book tour to share recipes and some cooking tips with the Franciscan Center’s two full-time cooks today. O’Donnel says, “I was proud to take part in today’s event. Food is such an integral part of everyone’s life. Helping to promote the idea that everyone deserves access to healthy delicious food is very important to me.”
“Launching Healthy Monday has been a challenge,” says Kim Greggory, Franciscan Center cook. “But by bringing in experts, like Chef O’Donnel, to teach us how to prepare healthier balanced lunches, I’ve been able to not only better prepare fresh vegetables, but I take that knowledge home and feed my own family better,” added Greggory.
O’Donnel has long supported Healthy Monday and Meatless Monday through her columns at the Washington Post and several popular blogs. Healthy Monday is a public health initiative whose goal is to prevent chronic diseases by offering people weekly prompts to start and sustain healthy behaviors, such as making healthy food choices. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, serves as technical and scientific adviser for Healthy Monday and its sister campaign Meatless Monday. McNally says Meatless Monday is just the first of many Healthy Monday programs the Franciscan Center plans to promote throughout the year.