Family Focus

Collaboration cooks up answers to healthy nutrition during Charlotte housing crisis

A new poll found about 40% of Americans say they still have money trouble after someone in their home lost a job or income because of the pandemic.

In Charlotte, there is unseen homelessness hiding in hotels and motels.

In many cases, couples and families get crowded into these places after a recent eviction or financial woes that make it difficult to be tenants elsewhere.

For families living on a limited income, their priority is paying rent and food is secondary.

“Most residents rely on fast food or corner store options which are high in fat, carbohydrates and sodium and interfere with the management of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” said Veronica Washington, community outreach coordinator at Northside Baptist Church.

The Life Project of North Carolina and Atrium Health are working together to introduce healthy eating habits for people living in motels. The Life Project is the strategic arm of Northside Baptist Church.

The project will address food access, cooking demonstrations, nutrition education and selected health screenings for hotel and motel residents and community members in the Hidden Valley community.

Mecklenburg County Public Health members solicited proposals to address health disparities and reduce chronic diseases so all Mecklenburg County residents can live healthy lives and thrive.

Families and individuals are provided with cooking instructions and equipment to facilitate healthy meal preparation in microwaves.

“Access to healthy foods are greatly limited, by nature of living environment and financial limitations, for those residents of the hotels and motels,” Washington said. “We’re trying to change the narrative.”

Families with a limited income are not able to afford enough fresh food, such as fruit and vegetables, to have a healthy diet.

“Someone burdened with limited incomes is more worried about hunger and will choose food that is filling instead of healthy,” Washington said.

The collaboration will provide cooking instructions and equipment to facilitate healthy meal preparation in microwaves. Specialty boxes of food staples and fresh produce (all low sodium, low sugar and low-fat) will be distributed through Loaves and Fishes.

“Folks that don’t eat much fresh food are also deprived because they miss the benefits of a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables,” Washington said. “We’re going to change that.”

Participants are asked to complete a health screening survey to indicate chronic diseases they may be managing. They will also indicate frequency of medication use, frequency of doctor’s visits associated with these chronic diseases.

The initial cooking demonstration included tasty ways to cook chicken and steamed vegetables in a motel microwave.

The Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners approved a grant to fund to address health disparities through chronic disease prevention and/or management.

More than half of all deaths in Mecklenburg are due to chronic conditions.

“This project will continue through June because beating food poverty requires more than just education,” Washington said. “This initiative with Atrium Health focuses is working one-on-one to improve the lives of our neighbors in need.”

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.

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