Food bank clients empowered to eat healthier foods

Volunteers spent a day in the garden at Master's Table to help people live healthier lives.

AUGUSTA, GA. (WJBF) – Eating healthy can be a hard thing to do, especially when it comes to buying fresh produce on a budget. But one local food bank rolled out a new program that will help its clients live healthier lives.

From digging in the garden to chopping in the kitchen, Golden Harvest Food Bank rolled out a new food initiative that aims to give people healthier options at the table.

The food bank’s Executive Director, Travis McNeal shared that families can sometimes choose foods that have poor nutritional value because they are cheaper.

“Families can have health issues, diabetes, heart problems. This shows up mainly in seniors, children and the entire family,” McNeal said.

McNeal held “A Day in the Garden” event at Master’s Table.  With volunteers harvesting food, he announced the Healthy Plate initiative.  That initiative is a program that calls for a 25 percent increase in the distribution of Foods to Encourage, which includes whole-grain products, low sodium and fat, fresh fruits and vegetables with no additives.

“We will facilitate getting these fresh fruits and vegetables right into the hands of the people,” McNeal said as volunteers worked in the garden. “We also work with local farmers to procure fresh produce and we rush this produce right into the hands of people through our mobile food pantries that go throughout our 30 counties.”

There are 40 garden beds located in the back of Master’s Table and McNeal hopes to expand, including eyeing the property next to the garden.

Roy Beach works with Augusta Locally Grown, a non-profit organization dedicated to contributing healthy food to the CSRA.  He now works as the Garden Manager at Master’s Table.

“From the seed to the plant it starts to grow. You bring that growth in,” Beach told us.  “We’re not going to have enough for a meal.  So, well cut it up into smaller portions, freeze it and save it for a later date.”

The on-site garden at Master’s Table will be largely maintained by volunteers.

Nicholas Chute moved to the area recently and chose to volunteer.  He said one of his first experiences was a project that put $100 in his hand to feed a family of four at the grocery store.

“We went to the grocery store and the biggest challenge there was trying to find cheap nutritious food and a lot of that relies on people knowing specific cooking skills,” Chute said.  “So you can take the produce they have at the grocery store and turn into delicious meals that the parents will eat, but also the kids will eat too.  I think growing your own food in a garden is a really sustainable way to, very cheaply, inexpensively get healthy foods for families who don’t have enough money to go to the grocery store every week and spend as much money as they’d like to.”

Healthy Plate is a partnership with Elanco and Augusta Locally Grown.

Master’s Table feeds 300 to 400 hot meals every day out of its kitchen a year.

To volunteer at the Master’s Table garden, click here.

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