Nutrition education breaking barriers in Health Zone 1

Access to healthy food in Jacksonville’s Health Zone 1 has been limited and fast food restaurants are cheap and easily accessible. But new efforts from community agencies and the Magnolia Project are transforming the environment to fix this issue.

The Magnolia Project was implemented in 1999 as a special federally-funded Healthy Start initiative to improve the health of women living in the city’s urban core, because of the high rate of infant mortality. Because a woman’s health prior to pregnancy is the biggest contributor to poor health outcomes, nutrition is a focus area for the Project. In 2016, Magnolia Project expanded to include OASIS, a primary care clinic equipped with a juice bar, yoga room and kid zone to address nutrition issues, the obesity epidemic and toxic stress contributing to infant deaths.

Moms at Magnolia, who have goals to lose weight and eat healthy, often bring up barriers to obtaining healthy food and finding ways to exercise, such as lack of access to transportation, financial difficulties, lack of proper childcare and much more.

Several projects are in place to break these barriers between community residents and being healthy:

Mondays – Pearl Plaza Parking Lot
                      10:30 AM to 1 PM
Berry Good Farms Mobile Market
Selling organic produce and Fresh Access Bucks allows customers with SNAP/EBT benefits to receive half off their purchase. They’re currently giving out coupons to everybody for $5 off. They will be accepting WIC coupons starting April 1st with valid ID.
Wednesdays – Magnolia Project
                           1 to 1:30 PM
Nutrition component of Moving Beyond SHARE
Moving Beyond SHARE is a postpartum group class that provides support and education to encourage healthy moms and babies.
Thursdays – Magnolia Project:
                      11 AM to 12 PM
               Magnolia Oasis/Juice Bar:
                        1:30 to 3:30 PM
Nutrition education & smoothies
-Lessons on achieving personal health goals through changing bad eating habits
-Types of food that should be limited in diets, healthy eating balance
-How to store fresh food so it won’t spoil
-Healthy eating on a budget
-Defining healthy carbs, fats and proteins
Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate as a cooking and plating tool

Kimberly Feliciano, a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member serving as a health educator with the Coalition, prepares lesson plans each week and smoothie recipes to provide examples of a healthy food that tastes good.

Many participants express they’ve never been taught to eat healthy – they grew up thinking that healthy food is nasty and expensive and unhealthy food is cheap and delicious. The ladies love discussing cooking their favorite dishes. Kim has challenged them to do a potluck one day with healthy twists on those dishes.

She’s also altering false beliefs about healthy food through her smoothie creations. The fan-favorite recipe is Pineapple Spinach Green Smoothie and moms and kids are shocked when they find out spinach is in the drink.

Magnolia’s approach is preventing false nutrition concepts, which is better achieved through conversation – rather than a lecture.
Kim and the moms play Dare to Compare, a flash card game she created with one unhealthy food and a healthier alternative. Women guess which they think is healthy and Kim discusses the pros and cons of each food’s nutrition benefits to give them a deeper understanding.

At the Magnolia Project/OASIS, parents are encouraged to bring their children who get to learn about healthy eating and taste smoothies too.