In the narrow aisles at Cousin’s Supermarket, a half-dozen Camden mothers huddled around Women Infants And Children (WIC) nutritionist Nicole Harvey, watching her point to unit pricing tags and nutrition labels. Harvey led them through an hour-long lesson focused on getting vegetables on their plates at home.
The tour was among a handful of in-store information sessions WIC put on in 2015. Since the grant-funded health literacy program began in June, 258 parents have participated. Last month, WIC and Head Start partnered with Camden’s Cathedral Kitchen, a sandwich and soup kitchen for the city’s needy, to teach parents how to make tasty, nutritious recipes with WIC-approved foods. According to Harvey:
“Childhood obesity in Camden can be attributed to poor access to fresh produce, cultural traditions of feeding infants and young children, and unsafe or inadequate outdoor play areas where kids need to develop their motor skills and burn off calories.”
Harvey taught how to use unit pricing — prices per pound for green beans, for instance — to pay the least for the most product. This week, fresh green beans at a unit price of $1.29 per pound were cheaper than frozen green beans on sale at $1.71 per pound. “Whether your produce is fresh, frozen or canned, it still applies to half your plate being a fruit and vegetable,” Harvey said.
To obtain WIC checks, families are required to participate in mandatory nutrition education and monitoring, including having their children’s measurements tracked by WIC and participating in postpartum diet and infant feeding plans, Harvey said.
When her sons — now 9, 8 and 3 — started eating solid foods, Kharis Ryan said she introduced them to the healthiest versions: cereals that weren’t sugary, fruit instead of potato chips. Still, her sons are picky eaters. “Everybody likes something different,” she smiled while inspecting bananas to add to her shopping bag. While she already knew a couple of the tips Harvey dispensed, Ryan admits she was a victim of food myths — for example, “I thought wheat bread was whole grain.”
Harvey pointed out to the women that a product isn’t truly a whole grain food unless “whole” is listed as the first ingredient before words like corn, wheat or oats. Wheat and white bread have the same first ingredient — enriched flour — but the enriched flour of wheat bread has as much nutritional value as white bread at twice the price. Ryan also discovered that bread containing raisins isn’t always healthier: one slice of raisin bread can have as much as 6 grams of sugar.
The Camden mothers left the store with a $10 fresh food voucher and tips for stretching a nutritionally packed dollar.