Maintaining a healthy diet has by no means been extra vital than it’s now

BY LINDA PETERSEN

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

The above idiom is probably familiar to most of the people. It was a way of saying if a woman cooks for a man he will love her because he likes to eat and loves someone who does him good. It’s a sexist remark, of course, and in my case my husband warms my heart by doing all of our cooking.

Eating, and consequently shopping for, groceries during the pandemic can be problematic. There is always a concern of catching yourself with COVID on the go. Hubby buys the sales in stores like Dave’s Fresh Marketplace during off-peak hours or in the early hours of the seniors’ morning. He’s a discerning buyer who knows exactly what he wants before he gets there. However, in places like Daves, he’s known for deviating from his list in order to get the fantastic meals prepared; Macaroni and cheese for adults with bacon and onions, prawn lo mien, chicken broccoli alfredo and cider pork chops. Suffice it to say that despite everything that happens around us, we do not have to go hungry. Many other people are not so lucky.

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank randomly sampled households in August and found that one in four were lacking adequate food, with the largest percentage being people with pre-existing conditions. With the unemployment rate hovering at 10 percent, many families who have never had food insecurity find food in pantries and churches.

Good nutrition has always been important, but it is even more important during this pandemic because a balanced meal of nutritious foods supports our immune system. Of course, having a strong immune system is vital if we get COVID-19. In addition, a healthy diet can also reduce problems related to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. For those of us who weren’t able to exercise as well as we did before the pandemic, weight gain was an issue. While I was blamed for not getting enough exercise, a cardiologist recently told me that exercise isn’t as important to weight loss as we think it is. We gain weight when we ingest more calories than we should. In theory, if I ate all low-calorie foods and spent my time sitting on the couch in front of the TV, I would lose more weight than if I were eating higher-calorie foods and exercising. Goodbye chips and dip. Hello celery and peanut butter. Still crispy and filling, but only 100 calories instead of 800.

Healthy eating is essential for a healthy life. As noted, one in four Rhode Island households is food insecure, defined as “the condition without reliable access to sufficient amounts of affordable, nutritious food.” The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act has provided additional funding to many organizations in Rhode Island to support aid in this area. An example of such a program for people with disabilities is currently being run by the Ocean State Center for Independent Living. This agency offers a wide range of services for an independent life in order to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities through self-regulation. While one in four families is the state average, that number is much higher for people with disabilities due to issues like transportation, family support, and finances. The OSCIL program, co-sponsored by Dave’s Fresh Marketplace, runs during the week of Martin Luther King Day. Five full boxes of healthy, non-perishable food are provided, along with a COVID supply bag containing items such as disinfectant, masks, gloves, wipes, toilet paper and disinfectant cleaner. The fur babies in the household will also benefit from the provision of dog and cat food. Although the program is limited to the first 100 people who are eligible, i.e. have a significant disability, there are still places available. (If you are interested, please send an email to [email protected] or use the QR code below.)

There are many other programs across the state that use CARES funding to provide healthy food. The Food Bank website has a list of all the programs that serve each Rhode Island community.

Our heart goes through the stomach and healthy eating has never been more important.

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