Healthy Eating Habits and Locally Grown Foods

Robert Sondak
Spare Change News

In an effort to promote healthy eating habits and Massachusetts-grown produce, Governor Deval Patrick launched a free online monthly newsletter called “ChopChop”. This newsletter was created in partnership with “ChopChop” magazine, a national quarterly publication that focuses on bringing parents and children together to prepare meals.

“We are committed to finding new ways to fight obesity and fight disease in Massachusetts,” Governor Patrick said, in a Dec. 20 press release. “This new effort is a way to bring parents and children together in the kitchen to create healthy, nutritious meals while spending time together as a family.”

Each month the newsletter will highlight a personal message from the Patrick-Murray administration, focusing on the importance of parents taking the time to make healthy meals with their children. Recipes consisting of Massachusetts-based produce will be featured in the newsletter. The December “ChopChop” issue featured a cranberry applesauce recipe. Massachusetts is the second largest producer of cranberries in the United States, and also the 25th largest apple producer.

Patrick made the announcement at a fun-filled event at the Community Servings kitchen facility located in Jamaica Plain. The governor was joined by a group of children aged 5 to 12, and prepared cranberry applesauce. Accompanying Patrick at this event were Dr. Judy Ann Bigby, secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS); John Auerbach, commissioner of the Department of Public Health (DPH); Scott Soares, commissioner of the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR); and Sally Sampson, “ChopChop” magazine founder.

The monthly newsletter is also designed to promote the variety of locally grown produce available to Massachusetts consumers.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to spread the word on the wide array of fruits and vegetables grown by Massachusetts farmers,” said Scott Soares. “Massachusetts is a leading cranberry producer.”
Sally Sampson discussed her magazine’s partnership with the state. ”We‘re thrilled to partner with Governor Patrick and his team to share that message with Massachusetts families,” Sampson said. “’ChopChop’ is all about cooking together as a family and sharing meals with children.”
           
State Senator Susan Fargo of Lincoln, a former public school teacher, commented, “The “ChopChop” initiative goes hand in hand with sound nutritious policies supported by the legislature and the Patrick-Murray administration. It follows along with last year’s passage of the School Nutrition Act and will greatly help improve public health and children’s diets.”
 Secretary Bigby pointed out that the creation of the “ChopChop” newsletter is very significant. “This is a wonderful, innovative way to empower parents and children alike to make healthy choices in the kitchen,” she said.
           
On a consumer level, the “ChopChop” newsletter was created to complement the Patrick administration‘s Mass In Motion health/wellness initiative and its focus on obesity and chronic disease. The reasons for linking the newsletter to the current Massachusetts virtual health/wellness program are very clear-cut. Home-cooked meals generally tend to be healthier, meaning less fat, salt and sugar. Most importantly, homemade food is less expensive than eating out. By teaching our kids to cook, we make them more nutritionally literate. Cooking at home with parents can act as an extension of learning, and can make children more likely to develop healthier eating habits over a lifetime. Also, cooking together is fun and can build family bonds.
           
According to Anne Hemmer, coordinator of the MA Children at Play Program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, making a family meal can be stressful because it is difficult to pull everyone together. It’s important to set the stage early in a child’s life to enjoy meals and foster a good relationship with food. Education resource tools such as the “ChopChop” newsletter can assist parents in organizing the dinner hour and planning meals. Additionally, having children help in the kitchen is a way to introduce new foods that they can enjoy. The “ChopChop” initiative can help parents and their children to prepare food in a safe and nurturing way.
           
Governor Patrick stressed the importance of families preparing nutritious food, and hoped that this website would provide examples of recipes for people to share with their children. “Diane and I hope that by cooking together and using fresh local ingredients, your holiday season will be both happy and healthy,” he said.
           
The new “ChopChop” initiative goes hand in hand with sound nutrition policies implemented by our local government. This innovative program represents a shift in the mission of our government towards teaching children to cook and to be nutritionally literate, and to empower them to actively participate as health partners with their families.

The latest edition of the Massachusetts ChopChop newsletter is available online at http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/consumer/wellness/healthy-living/eat-better/tips/chopchop.html

For more information on ChopChop magazine go to http://www.chopchopmag.org.

ROBERT SONDAK is a Spare Change News writer-vendor. Robert studied Food Science and Dietetics at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Robert has a Bachelors Degree from the University of Massachusetts College of Public and Community Service, (CPCS).
Robert also minored in Urban Planning and Advocacy. Currently Robert is the Executive Director of the Nutrition Education Outreach Project,http://neopmeopt.blogspot.com

PHOTOS: ERIC HAYNES/GOVERNORʼS OFFICE

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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