For families seeking to make homemade meals healthier while keeping an affordable budget, a guided grocery store tour is helping to make a difference. In the communities of North Laurel, Savage and Jessup, areas with high health disparities, Healthy Howard is managing an innovative effort to promote a “Healthy Eating and Active Living” (HEAL) Zone.
While Howard County has often led the state as one of its healthiest counties, we recognize that some of our local communities have higher levels of health challenges, such as chronic disease and stress, than the rest of the county.
That is why Healthy Howard is working to increase the availability and affordability of fresh fruit and vegetables, increase physical activity in community and institutional settings, decrease calories consumed via sugar sweetened beverages and increase access to affordable health care in the HEAL Zone.
At one recent grocery store tour, one mom noted that her children are gaining weight but that it’s hard to pack healthy lunches to take to school. Our HEAL Zone organizer and store tour leader helped the mom think about ways to create homemade healthy “lunchables” with celery and carrot sticks, fruit, peanut butter and low-fat crackers and cheese.
Grocery store tours teach how to read food labels, how to buy more fruit and vegetables on a budget, how to buy whole grains and how to compare unit prices.
“I learned tons!” said Casey Schurman, a teacher at Bollman Bridge Elementary School who accompanied parents on a grocery store tour. “I can’t believe I’m saying it (I’m typically not a fan of going to the grocery store) but I can’t wait to go to the store on Sunday and put some of what you taught us into practice!”
In addition to educational grocery store trips, the HEAL Zone also holds a community walking program and promotes the county’s healthy meal kit delivery program, the Roving Radish.