This Innovative Nutrition Program is Coming to New York

by Gabrielle Khalife
Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: FEAST

What they do: In 2013, Sam Polk and his wife Dr. Kirsten Thompson started Groceryships (now known as FEAST) as a way to address the health disparities–largely stemming from a broken food system–affecting families throughout the United States. With the understanding that a healthy life has three main ingredients: whole foods, whole people and whole communities, Founders, Sam and Kristen, Executive Director, Dana Rizer, and a team of advisors created a holistic program combining practical skills like nutrition education and healthy cooking with a support-group structure that builds deep bonds of friendship and social connection. This integrative approach promotes wellness by harnessing the power of healthy foods and human connection.

In 2018, in an effort to better express the essence of the programs, which goes far beyond the distribution of “scholarships for groceries,” Groceryships officially changed its name to FEAST, which stands for Food Education, Access and Support. Through a 16-week educational program, FEAST works to address not only the lack of access to healthy, fresh and affordable foods, but also the lack of social support in communities across the country. To date, the organization has had an impact on thousands of individuals and families in the Los Angeles area and is continuing to expand its work to the national level by starting programs in New York City this Fall.

How they do it: FEAST hosts free 16-week programs that take place in schools, hospitals and other community settings, where participants come together once a week for two hours. Every week, a trained group leader teaches participants about healthy eating and nutrition, demonstrates a recipe, leads the group in discussion topics and gives each participant a food scholarship valued at $10 to be used for fresh and organic produce. Over the course of the 16-week program, participants become very connected to one another and are able to build a network of support as they continue on their journey towards a healthier life.

FEAST’s programs have three main components:

  1. Food Education: To host nutritional discussions, teach food shopping skills, and provide fruit- and vegetable-focused recipes and cooking demonstrations to help make healthy eating satisfying, affordable and delicious
  2. Access: To provide access to whole foods through a food scholarship (giftcards for fresh, organic produce), enabling families to experiment with new nutritious foods and recipes at home.
  3. Support, Together: To provide a safe space for participants to share personal information about current eating habits, emotional eating, and food addiction, and receive group support so that they can overcome obstacles and celebrate their steps towards a healthier life.

This multi-faceted approach is helping FEAST realize their vision for a world where every individual and family has equal access to the tools and ingredients that promote health and well-being.

Mission: to promote wellness and enrich lives through the power of healthy food and human connection

Latest project/campaign: FEAST is expanding locally, regionally and nationally this year. FEAST has been partnering with organizations nationwide to bring the program to their communities. Specifically, FEAST has partnered with Wellness in the Schools in New York City. On November 5th, FEAST will be hosting a sample class at Essex Street Market in preparation for their formal launch in January 2019.

Major Funding: Annenberg Foundation, NoVo Foundation, see full list (scroll to the bottom)

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: $380,000

Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect the food system: Since its inception, FEAST has impacted the lives of more than 2,000 individuals in Los Angeles. FEAST recognizes that nutrition education is just one of the ingredients necessary for individuals to begin making changes in their diet; there are a lot of other root causes for poor diet, including environmental and financial roadblocks to to finding or purchasing wholesome food, and emotional or personal reasons individuals have for eating what they eat. In order to create an impactful change, all of these pieces must be addressed. FEAST’s comprehensive programs combine practical tools like nutrition education and healthy shopping skills with food access, peer-support and community engagement in order to increase individual wellness and reduce health problems, particularly in low-income, under-resourced neighborhoods.

FACT SHEET:

Location:

3655 South Grand Ave Suite #210

Los Angeles, CA 90027

Core Programs:

-Food Education

-Food Access

-Social Support

Number of staff: 4

Number of volunteers: 20-30

Areas served: Los Angeles, New York City, Nebraska, Florida, Vermont

Year Started: 2013

Executive Director: Dana Rizer

Contact Information: [email protected]

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