by Monica Bhagwan
On May 21st and 22nd, Leah’s Pantry hosted its twice-yearly Food Smarts Training Program (FSTP). Our partner, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank graciously hosted us for two full and engaging days. FSTP is an opportunity for Leah’s Pantry to share the knowledge we have acquired and the curriculum we have developed over the past nine years with other agencies around the Bay Area. The goal of FSTP is to inspire others to lead their own food and nutrition education programming within the communities and agencies that they work. We share both the “WHY” and the “HOW” of Leah’s Pantry’s work, by providing a broader “big picture” context and offering best practices and tools.
The agencies that attended represented the diversity of agencies that work hard to improve the lives of the disadvantaged in the Bay Area. They included staff from Healthright 360, Project Access, Community Grows, Green Streets, Huntersview YMCA, and Urban Strategies. These agencies provide low-income youth, adults, and seniors services and programs such as:
• mental health care, primary health care, and substance abuse recovery services
• health and wellness promotion
• environmental empowerment and education
• employment services
• support to youth and families to find pathways away from violence
• community-building in public housing
Devoting two entire days to attending FSTP (just before Memorial Day, nonetheless!) demonstrated their deep commitment to enhancing the wellness of the communities they serve. Since May, several of the agencies have already begun planning or executing food and nutrition programming. Leah’s Pantry staff have offered support, technical assistance, facilitation assistance, toolkits and material resources to all these agencies.
We believe that Food Smarts programming can be more effective and meaningful when delivered by individuals who have a deeper and longer-term relationship with the workshop participants. Often, the staff themselves are members of the community they are serving and are better able to connect the needs of the community with the program offerings of Leah’s Pantry. When we can pair our facilitation and program management skills with these agencies, the participants can have the best of both worlds. Developing and maintaining these partnerships will allow us to broaden our reach and enhance our understanding of the many communities that can be served by Leah’s Pantry.