Each Thursday, Tiana, a mother of three boys, brings an insulated grocery bag to her son’s school. Before she picks up her 4-year-old son Justin, she makes her way to the Food Bank table where there is a box full of food waiting for her.
Her family is part of a new 18-week pilot program called Power Packs: Fueling Healthy Kids. Partly funded by Morgan Stanley through Feeding America, the program’s goal is to increase consumption of fresh vegetables and lean proteins among kids and parents. By introducing healthier eating habits to kids at a young age, it will help them become healthier adults.
The program is currently only available to low-income preschoolers at Metz, Sanchez and Barbara Jordan Elementary. Each week, families receive a meal kit, similar to Hello Fresh, with three recipes centered on a single vegetable and all the ingredients needed to make the recipes.
The recipes also align with their school lunch menu, so the kids are already familiar with the main vegetable in the Power Packs and feel more encouraged to try it at home. Approximatelly 120 Power Packs are distributed each week.
To get families started, the first week they received a bag full of the staples they would be using throughout the program, as well as some cooking equipment like a cutting board and measuring spoons.
When Tiana received her first Power Pack, it wasn’t what she was expecting.
“I was shocked. I was just like ‘wow this is amazing’, especially the first week because we had gotten seasoning and carrots and chicken. Usually when they say they have food, it’s like canned food and vegetables and stuff. I didn’t think that they would have meat, so I was like, ‘this is awesome’.”
The Power Packs are especially helpful for the family right now. Tiana recently had a baby boy and is on unpaid maternity leave. Her husband is disabled and receives Social Security, but it’s only enough to pay their rent.
“I’m stressed, I’m very stressed. I’m hoping that my taxes come soon because we need it,” Tiana said.
With her next pay check a couple of months away, the parents are worried about providing for their kids, especially for their oldest son who has type 1 diabetes and needs nourishing food. With the Power Packs, Tiana has been able to keep her family healthy.
“My son was excited about the carrots because with the diabetes, that’s one thing he can eat non-stop. He doesn’t have to ask about it or anything. He was like ‘I got carrots’,” Tiana said.
Though her kids are excited about the food, as the family's cook, Tiana is even more excited about the program. She has been able to make the recipes with the chicken and has been able to taste cauliflower for the first time.
“We look forward to it every week. We don’t forget, we bring our little bag. I like reading and looking at the recipes,” Tiana said.