Local home visiting programs provide fresh produce
Posted on 08.28.2014, Thursday

Excerpt from guest column in The Herald-Sun on August 23, 2014; written by Jan Williams, Clinical Supervisor, Healthy Families Durham

Cultia Shealey, mother of a 16-month-old toddler, commented that her son has loved getting fruits and vegetables from the home visiting program, Healthy Families Durham.

“He loves them!” she said. “He’s tried strawberries for the first time, and has even tried cucumbers and zucchini.”  For an active toddler who is learning independent eating skills, this program has been a wonderful way to expose him to fruits and vegetables that he might not try otherwise.

Healthy Families Durham and the Durham Early Head Start Home-Based program, both home visiting family support programs of the Center for Child & Family Health, are collaborating with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, the Durham Farmer’s Market and Sarah P. Duke Gardens to provide healthy fruits, vegetables, and staples to Durham families.

Both Healthy Families Durham and Early Head Start Home-Based program provide weekly home visits to parents of children 0-3 years to get the families off to a good start by bringing information about child development, health, safety and nutrition to interested parents.  With the addition of delivering fresh produce, the programs can back up the educational information with a chance for participants to actually experience healthy foods on their dinner table.

About three years ago, the home visiting programs created a cooperative agreement with the Inter-faith Food Shuttle.  Every other Wednesday, home visitors pick up boxes of fresh fruit and staples such as peanut butter and cereal from the IFFS office at Northgate Mall.  In addition, the Wednesday Durham Farmer’s Market vendors offer leftover fruits and vegetables for families involved in Healthy Families and Early Head Start.  Recently, Lindsey Fleetwood, a horticulturist at the Duke Gardens, reached out to the home visiting programs to distribute organic produce grown in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden.  “I feel this collaboration is important because together we are bringing healthy, fresh food to families who truly need it,” Fleetwood said.  ”I feel honored to have the opportunity to give back to our community.”

Home visitors deliver the fresh produce to the homes of the families. Cultia Shealey said that she has received squash, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, strawberries, apples, lettuce, onions and cucumbers. She had never eaten zucchini before, but was willing to try it, and now says, “it’s delicious.”

For these families of young children, many of whom do not have transportation to get to local markets or resources to afford local or organic produce, having fresh, healthy, locally grown food delivered to their home is an added bonus to their involvement in these home visiting programs. “This collaboration is truly one of our most important efforts to promote the health of the children and families,” said Karen Carmody, program director of Healthy Families Durham and Early Head Start Home-Based Program. “Many of our participants struggle with food insecurity or are unable to access fresh foods. Our partners are helping us to meet a growing need for families in Durham.”

Click here to read the full article in The Herald-Sun

Healthy Families Durham, funded by the Partnership through Smart Start, offers voluntary early childhood intervention services through an intensive home visiting program designed to prevent child abuse, improve parent/child interaction, and increase parenting skills. To learn more, please click here.

Durham Early Head Start is a collaboration between the Partnership, Chapel Hill Training-Outreach Project, Inc., the Center for Child &Family Health, and three local five-star child care partners. Early Head Start is a free, comprehensive child development and family support program for low-income expectant women and families with infants and toddlers ages birth to three. To learn more, please click here.