Mary:  focusing on healthy food

Jackson Care Connect member Mary says getting access to fresh, affordable vegetables has provided a source of inspiration for her family.

She is one of a limited number of Jackson Care Connect members in the “veggie box” program, which provides members with discounted access to a community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscription. The program is offered to members who are already enrolled in wellness programs, as an extra layer of support to help them make significant diet changes. Jackson Care Connect covers part of the cost of a summer-long subscription to Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative’s CSA box, with produce supplied by local farmers.

Mary says as she was growing up, she was raised on a pretty healthy diet, but she had gotten away from it, particularly in the midst of her addiction.  “I didn’t cook a lot of vegetables for my kids or myself,” she says.

Members involved in the program pick up their fresh boxes of produce once a week, from May through October. In addition to the support from Jackson Care Connect, members who are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can apply those funds to their portion of the cost. This helps them budget for the box, and helps them ensure they are eating fresh produce throughout the whole month.

The program also includes access to cooking classes at the Rogue Valley Family YMCA, which provided Mary and the rest of the class with new recipes, and tips on altering familiar ones, like adding vegetables to pasta.

The lessons Mary learned through the veggie box program proved especially useful last spring, when she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and put on a strict diet. Improving her diet helped her stay on track through the end of the pregnancy, and give birth to a healthy baby.

Now a mother of four, Mary says her kids are slowly coming around to the new diet. Like many parents, she says it takes repeated offerings to get her kids to try new foods, and she credits the cooking classes for tips on how to include vegetables in kid-friendly recipes like frittatas and zucchini fritters.

She and her partner, who was initially reluctant to use all the vegetables, were inspired to start their own garden this summer, and they grew their own tomatoes, melons and herbs. Her family is bolder in their food choices now, and they don’t shy away from picking up new items at the farmers market or stores. They experiment with various ways of cooking vegetables, and are generally happy with their creations.

Mary says being more aware of what she’s putting in her body has been key to improving her overall health—mind and body. “It’s an important part of addiction recovery that’s not focused on a lot,” she says, adding that successful recovery means more than just attending meetings and doing “step work.” Focusing on eating good food is a reminder for her to treat her body well. Eating more healthy food has increased her energy level, and improved the way she feels.

“That’s huge relapse prevention for me,” she says.

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