FORT VALLEY — Residents of the Tabor Heights community are building partnerships in their neighborhood through a variety of local initiatives, which have included healthy eating and wellness in recent months.
The effort is co-sponsored by Peach County Family Connection, one of 159 chapters of the organization across the state, said Adrianne Towles, Peach County’s executive director. Made up of social organizations, educators, clergy and government agencies, the group helps promote family wellness by promoting awareness of issues such as child abuse and neglect, literacy and teen pregnancy.
Peach County Family Connection focuses its efforts on Tabor Heights, working with its after-school program and its monthly tenant meetings held the second Tuesday of the month, among other things.
“It’s a way for residents to come together to improve the community,” Towles said. “One of those ways to improve the community is by eating healthy, on top of other health-care concerns.”
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Sabrena Johnson, program assistant of the expanded food and nutrition program at Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Extension, attended the June tenant meeting last week and shared tips on proper portion sizes with 10 people in attendance.
The key to proper nutrition is to stick to sensible food portions when eating a balanced diet, Johnson explained. She then showed those at the meeting how to do that by comparing food servings to ordinary household objects.
For example, Johnson said a deck of cards is roughly equivalent to a 3-ounce portion of meat, a tennis ball is about one cup of rice and a CD case measures out to one slice of bread.
“Don’t diet. Eat portions, three meals, two snacks,” Johnson said. “If you eat portions, you’ll automatically lose weight.”
Later, Johnson showed the group sample test tubes measuring the fat and sugar content of common foods.
While a sausage biscuit from McDonald’s is loaded with fat, a wheat bagel or a plain pancake are less damaging breakfast options, according to Johnson’s presentation. Being aware of a food’s nutritional value is important for long-term health, because a high-fat diet can lead to health problems such as cholesterol, stroke and diabetes, she said.
Later, Johnson distributed handouts on how to determine proper portion sizes and the food pyramid.
In July, the group will review how to read nutrition labels on foods, based on requests by the attendees of the meeting.
Angela Warren, who has been president of Tabor Heights’ residential board for eight years, said the healthy eating advice included in recent meetings is part of a larger effort to improve community health. The first step is instilling a sense of personal responsibility among local parents for their children’s diets.
“We blame the schools for it, but what part do we play? How much do you eat at McDonald’s?” she asked.
After observing children in the community constantly snacking on chips and candy, Warren felt that she needed to take action on the matter herself, by developing new habits such as cooking differently and exercising.
“I want to be around for the children, to be old and gray,” she said.
As Barbara Golden, who is the secretary of the residential board, left the meeting, she said her new knowledge persuaded her to cook a dinner with whole wheat foods rather than the homemade burger she originally had in mind.
“What I learned from this meeting will make the next meal healthy,” she said.
Golden said she was motivated to make healthier choices in her diet, both for herself and for the members of the community.
“The meeting is just a start to learning more and being aware,” she said. “I’ll look at what I eat. I’ll look at the serving size.”