Annual Urban Food Task Force event offers cooking tips, health screenings and local produce.
Every week, 56-year-old Garcella Campbell rides her bike across D.C. to the Turkey Thicket Aquatic Facility to take water aerobics classes. She eats fresh, seasonal vegetables when she can, but said that it can be difficult to find local produce or healthy recipes.
“We learn as we go along when it comes to health and nutrition, but it has to be a priority,” Ms. Campbell said Saturday afternoon at the annual George Washington University Urban Food Task Force Pop-Up Produce Market and Health Screening Fair held at the Deanwood Recreation Center.
“I want to be able to run and skip with my grandchildren.”
Ms. Campbell was among the D.C. residents of Ward 7 and 8 who attended the final event in the university celebration of Food Day, observed nationally Oct. 24. GW’s 2015 Food Day celebration included a talk by author and food activist Michael Pollan and the annual Apple Day giveaway.
Volunteers, including William Carnago, Board of Trustees director of board operations, Loretta Penn, wife of Trustee Emeritus and Campaign for GW Chair BJ Penn, Dawnita Aliteri, senior advisor to the president, Diane Knapp, UFTF chair and Chaka Butler, GW Office of the President staff, were all smiles on Saturday at the annual Pop-Up Produce Market and Health Screening Fair. (Zach Marin/GW Today)
Residents took home bright green reusable grocery bags filled with kale, apples, onions, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables donated by UFTF, Giant, Sodexo, the Corner Bakery Cafe’ and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Minority Health. Bags also included fresh mint from the F Street House garden and basil grown in the Division of Operations Facilities Services edible landscaping project.
“The Pop-Up Produce Market is the cornerstone event of our Food Day activities,” said UFTF Chair Diane Knapp. “It’s another opportunity for faculty, students and staff to get out into the community and walk the talk, while the university chef gives residents a taste of the simple joys of healthy eating.”
University Chef Robert Donis demonstrated for residents how to prepare healthy, simple recipes using the produce provided. Residents took home the recipes and tasted the creations—a tangy fresh slaw and a kale, apple and onion skillet.
University Chef Robert Donis provided cooking demonstrations of recipes using fresh fall produce. (Zach Marin/GW Today)
“The onion is a little spicy, but it’s good,” said Brenda Everette, a first-time fair attendee and 15-year Deanwood resident. “I enjoy cooking yellow string beans, but I’ve learned to just cook them for about 15 minutes so they are still crunchy and full of nutrients, not for hours like my mother used to do.”
In addition to cooking advice, GW Hospital Clinical Dietician Elaine Ferrel returned to the fair to offer basic nutrition information. Ms. Ferrel said that understanding portion sizes and nutrition labels is one the biggest hurdles for people adopting a healthier lifestyle. She recommends reading the labels on packaged foods to understand calorie content and serving size before purchasing or eating packaged foods.
“Eating larger portions can lead to obesity, hypertension and other diseases in the long term,” Ms. Ferrel said. “Reading labels and understanding serving sizes is a simple way to regulate how much you are eating.”
GW Healing Clinic physician assistant students also volunteered to measure residents’ blood pressure, weight and offer tips on maintaining healthy fitness levels.
First-year physician assistant student Mark Morris was among the GW Healing Clinic volunteers who provided free health screening to residents. (Zach Marin/GW Today)
Cayla Carosone, a first-year physician assistant student, said that people are usually aware that blood pressure and weight are important but need guidance on ways to monitor their fitness. As a rule, she encourages people to consider everything they eat in terms of “whether they would feed it to their child.”
“People are busy and on the go and often they don’t consider how their food choices affect them in the long run—even if they are aware that maintaining their health is important,” Ms. Carosone said. “If you are healthy, you aren’t just better for yourself, you can be better for others.”