Parks and Recreation helps seniors ‘eat their veggies’

By Jorashae Graddick
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE


Durham seniors can get a nutritional boost through a twice-monthly program at the Holton Career and Resource Center. The Farmer’s Market holds nutritional talks and gives out food and produce.

Volunteers help give out produce and food to seniors at the Farmer’s Market, part of the Durham Parks and Recreation Mature Adults Program. (Staff photo by Jorashae Graddick)

The most recent one was held on Thursday, Nov. 15 and more than 60 senior citizens attended.

When people arrived, they received a ticket and sat through a brief nutritional presentation by Farmer’s Market coordinator, Ann Marie Strike or as many of the attendees referred to her, “Annie.”

Strike showed the full room of seniors how to substitute cauliflower for potatoes in order to avoid issues with high carbohydrate consumption for the holidays. The dish: mashed cauliflower with cheese.

The Farmer’s Market, part of the Mature Adults Program of Durham Parks and Recreation Department, began in May 2010. It was Strike’s brainchild.

The initial market ran every week through the summer months, ending in September. The food was donated by farmers at the Durham Farmer’s Market.

“It was just a matter of wanting to provide something to the community that was needed. We would have potlucks and other programs doing fitness programs, but not addressing the wanting to bring good food to people,” said Strike. “Being able to distribute produce was a good way to make sure that we might not be able to give then a hundred percent of fruits and vegetables in their diet, but we were able to give to supplement their diets.”

In 2011, it was extended through the months of October through April, only once per month. However this year, it was changed to being held year round and twice a month.

The Farmer’s Market now occurs on every first and third Thursday at the Holton Career and Resource Center.

“We primarily distribute produce but we rely on what the food shuttle brings to us,” said Strike.

Once every month, on the third Thursday, they offer the nutrition and healthy eating class called “What’s That and Why Should I Eat It?”.

The class varies from how to take unfamiliar fruits and vegetables and make recipes out of them to the education of how certain fruits and vegetables can help their diet.

“It came from wanting to educate people more on the produce that we were getting donated but, also to expand the items that they were eating in their diet,” said Strike.

She says that when she pulls the recipes for the class she does a very general recipe, not health condition specific, but mostly focusing on highlighting a specific vegetable.

After the nutrition class, attendees are guided through the market of fresh produce and other food items like bread and desserts with no cost.

The food is distributed based on the number of ticketed seniors.

The food is provided by the InterFaith food shuttle that receive donations from local grocery stores and the farmer’s market to offer to the Parks and Recreation Farmer’s Market.

North Durham resident, Gracie Hart, attended the event on Thursday. She said that she liked the hours as well as organization of the market.

“I’m on a fixed income and coming is very affordable,” says Hart. She has been attending the market for almost two years.

She says that she likes Annie’s recipes and diets because along with it she gives the history of the vegetable as well as ways that it can supplement health.

As each senior citizen came through the market they were offered several different produce options from lemons to avocados to various kinds of potatoes.

Strike said emphatically, “It’s really been great! We have been able to give them better access to fruits and vegetables which is sometimes a struggle for them because a lot of them are on a fixed income.”

“Of course we try to make sure that people in Northeast Central Durham, know where we’re at with this center,” said Strike. “We try to make sure that the community around the center knows about the market, but we are open to everybody. Basically the only requirement is that they be 55 or older and that only one person from each household shop.”