Nutrition Outreach

Heather Peracchio, Registered Dietitian and Assistant Extension Educator has connected with Bethel AME Church on Grove Street in Bridgeport, CT thanks to Marilyn Moore, Board Chair for End Hunger CT!.  Reverend Theodore Hickman-Maynard and Co- Pastor Bernadette Hickman-Maynard have offered the church’s educational area and spacious kitchen to host EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program) classes for parishioners.  Classes reached over 20 families through six weekly courses this April and May.  Attendees have learned how to increase their intake of healthy foods through hands-on nutrition and cooking classes.


The photo features items used to prepare Oprah’s Outtasight Salad recipe, a perfect sweet and crunchy salad for summer:

Classes involve family members of all ages including children and grandparents raising grandchildren.  Components of class are in line with the Next Generation Connecticut plan and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines, specifically participants are learning about nutritional science and math while gaining life skills.  Each week attendees have shared changes that they have made to their lifestyle since attending EFNEP classes.  Diet changes shared include; draining and rinsing canned foods to lower the sodium content, no longer adding salt when preparing meals, including a salad before meals to increase vegetable intake and reading food labels on packages.  Attendees also have shared they have begun making at home the healthy, low cost recipes featured in class such as Roasted Root Vegetables and Quick Garbanzo Bean Soup


Another new connection to the community includes outreach at the Connecticut Food Bank mobile food pantries in Danbury and Bridgeport.  One time per month a CT Food Bank truck delivers perishable foods to up to 250 needy families per site.  Folks seek out fresh fruit and vegetable donations from these mobile food pantries located in church and Housing Authority parking lots.  SNAP-Ed Food Security funds allow UConn to provide healthy budget-friendly recipes and nutrition information on USDA MyPlate, portion size, label reading, and healthy preparation techniques.  Coordinating with CT Food Bank staff Jennifer LaRosa, Richard Tirado the site volunteers Heather provides seasonally appropriate recipes and information.  Fresh fruit donations often include apples, oranges and pears, while vegetable donations often include staples for salads, soups and stews such as kale, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, and onions.  Other perishable items like yogurt, eggs, and breads are sometimes available. Clients welcome new recipes and are happy to share how they plan to prepare the food items.   Items clientele are less familiar with how to prepare, consume or store include fennel and tofu.  Heather is able to provide healthy preparation techniques and science based web resources to clientele.