A Night out at the Market at 25th

Grocery shopping is a seemingly mundane task that everyone claims they understand. Get your food and go, they say. Although a lot of people overlook what actually goes into their foods and how their diet affects them. So many people don’t look at the label and just get the cheapest item. An unhealthy diet can lead to so many serious, even deadly, conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and type-2 diabetes, to name a few. Understanding how to plan meals and read nutrition labels helps create a healthy diet. The REAL LIFE staff understands this, and also sees the lack of knowledge in this area that many of the Lifers possess. Many unhealthy eating habits and patterns, as well as buying processed foods, is a frequent occurrence for many Lifers.

Last week, our Occupational Therapy Doctoral interns taught a class about healthy eating and shopping for groceries. The first step to learning a healthy diet is learning the correct portions for a meal. The lesson laid out how to portion the meals, and even what healthy oils are. Learning how to portion meals is an important part of health and should prioritize in this manner when going grocery shopping. Learning what constitutes a full meal makes for a healthier lifestyle.

Meal planning was an important part of the lesson. Meal planning saves money, relieves stress, and encourages a healthy diet. The Lifers were taught that keeping a food calendar is a good strategy for planning out their meals. Through this topic the Lifers are not only able to have a healthier diet but be able to budget their food.  Having a meal plan promotes having leftover foods which not only decreases food waste but limits the amount of money spent on groceries each week. There is a lot of stress that comes from not knowing what to eat, but a meal plan eliminates that stress and knowing what to eat everyday creates a schedule that an individual can follow which leads to less stress put on them. Finally planning out meals in advance makes one think of what they actually need to have a full meal instead of just putting together something last minute.

Another important step in healthy eating is having a grocery list. This was taught to the Lifers because going into the grocery store with a plan saves money and time. Having a meal plan and a grocery list go hand and hand. The grocery list breaks down all the ingredients in a meal plan. Then with the ingredients a person is able to make what they already planned out. With all the steps for having a meal there is an emphasis on getting rid of all the stress that comes with food. Stress also creates many health defects that are also caused by a bad diet, such as heart disease and diabetes. This with a bad diet leads to many health complications. These lessons are taught with the purpose of lessening everyday stress.

During the second lesson, Lifers were able to apply what they learned in class. We all went to Market at 25th. The Market at 25th  if you are not aware, was built in a food desert in the Eastern portion of the City. It is the only grocery store in Richmond that encompasses Richmond’s history in every aspect of the store (including the isle names, which are named after historic African American churches in Richmond). It includes products from many local entrepreneurs, even an 11-year-old boy who has the greatest lemonade. Even produce and fruit is 50% off for individuals using food stamps.

One of the male Lifers said that the market was very helpful to him saying “they try to meet community needs.” Each Lifer was given a $10 gift card from the market and then were tasked to take their prepared meal plan and grocery lists and shop. This gave the lifers a chance to apply what they learned in class to a real-world experience. Giving them a chance to shop for groceries when they also had people to ask what to do gives them an opportunity to clear up any confusion they had about the lesson. Another Lifer said, “it was very informative.”

We appreciate the Market at 25th so much for opening their doors to our large group, in order to give our men and women an opportunity for education, and great food at a wonderful price!

Having a healthy diet and, more importantly, now to get healthy foods are extremely needed in today’s society. With obesity and heart disease rates rising, the need for education about healthy lifestyles is also rising. Eating healthy can also decrease the stress levels of an individual. Teaching these people about being healthy, they will be able to have a healthier physical body and, in turn, a healthier mind.

~ Written by REAL LIFE Intern, Elise Fleming
VCU Student, Social Work Major