The effects of hunger on the human body are devastating. Without a balanced diet, a person’s health deteriorates physically, mentally, and emotionally. And when someone’s mental and emotional wellbeing begins a downward trend, it can be difficult to find the energy and resources to help oneself back up.
That’s where community meal and nutrition programs, like Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center, come into play. Led by CEO Judith Watson RN, BSN , MPH, the health center puts a strong focus on providing quality healthcare for their community. That includes nutritional wellbeing.
“Food insecurity certainly impacts the wellbeing of our patients,” said Watson. “We look at our patients in a holistic way. Not just medical. Not just physical, but also mental and nutrition.”
The theme of Black History Month 2022 is Black health and wellness, celebrating Black doctors and medical experts who work hard to address the needs of their community. Watson was an ideal figure for us to highlight.
Nourishment goes deeper than just getting food into your stomach. A person needs a balanced diet that provides nutrients to fuel their mind and body.
“Healthy foods are expensive. This is why you have folks going for fast foods. It’s easier, it’s quicker,” said Watson. “The fact that people are able to access that food at the health center — there are no words how important it is we are able to offer these services.”
Hunger affects the human body in countless ways, including making it hard to think straight and increasing the risk for chronic diseases. In children, growling stomachs result in a higher risk of behavioral and cognitive issues, mental disorders, as well as long-term health threats like asthma.
On top of that, facing hunger can be stressful. Constantly worrying about where your next meal will come from can cause mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and even posttraumatic stress disorder. The American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that mothers with school-aged children who face severe hunger are 56.2% more likely to have PTSD and 53.1% more likely to have severe depression.
Sangeeta Ahuja, MS, RD, CDE, CD-N, RYT, and MVNHC’s Director of Nutrition Services, adds to that: “With COVID-19 and the pandemic there is reduced immunity, reduced motivation to cook, reduced organization to plan meals,” she said. “We aim to provide foods and simple incentives to put it together.”
Ahuja’s program provides recipes, quick fixes like avocado salad, and other dishes that can be stored safely for a couple of days.
“It helps people to nurture themselves and organize better so they have a meal prepared,” said Sangeeta.
Community meal programs, like MVNHC, are an integral part of keeping the Westchester community healthy. We are so appreciative of leaders like Watson, who go above and beyond to focus on more than just feeding. Nutrition and hunger relief go hand in hand.
To find a community meal program near you, or to check our Mobile Food Pantry schedule to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, go to feedingwestchester.org/findhelp.
Our purpose is to feed, empower, and unite our community. Our mission, to nourish our neighbors in the fight against hunger. But, the distribution of this food is only possible because of your support.
To continue to support Feeding Westchester, we encourage you to donate here. To find help, click here.