We are so proud of our enduring partnership with the Houston Food Bank. This dynamic organization feeds 800,000 hungry people each year by distributing food through nearly 600 hunger relief agencies in 18 southeast Texas counties. We share a common goal of nourishing our community and teaching the basics of smart food choices. No wonder, we got such a huge kick when the folks at the Houston Food Bank enthusiastically joined in our 2015 VegOut! Challenge, encouraging not just their staff, but their volunteers and all their clients to participate, too. While we gear up for VegOut! 2016 at Houston Food Bank, read more about how we knocked it out of the park last year.
“As Houston Food Bank and Recipe for Success coordinate our efforts to create a healthier, more food-secure Houston, we realized that the VegOut! Challenge was an excellent way to promote healthy eating,” says Adele Brady, Houston Food Bank’s Director of Communications. “Houston Food Bank is invested in addressing food insecurity, through nutritious meals, and we are consistently working to provide Food Bank clients with fresh produce. This additional collaboration is an effective way to ensure that Food Bank employees and clients know the importance of good nutrition.”
Brady says the food bank encourages healthy habits among its staff members through a year round employee wellness program. “We are proud to have an on-site gym where all employees can access equipment for strength training and aerobic exercise, as well as the Houston Texans Cafe in our lobby that has healthy lunch, breakfast, and snack options (oatmeal cups, salads, sandwiches, fruit and veggie cups, etc) for employees and volunteers.”
VegOut! 2015 participation at the food bank was especially strong at its two central sites: the Keegan Kitchen and Portwall, explains Brady. She says the Keegan Kitchen had an active VegOut! Team, while about 30 staff members from a variety of departments at the Portwall location (Volunteer Services, Development, Agency Services, Operations) participated in the 2015 VegOut! Challenge.
“We posted VegOut! fliers in the Houston Food Bank lobby to promote the challenge to our employees and the hundreds of volunteers that pass through our doors every day,” says Brady. “We reached out to more than 1,000 partners through e-mail blasts and newsletters. We also encouraged new vegetable choices to employees through Veggie of the Day e-mails to staff.”
To encourage food bank clients to embrace the VegOut! Challenge, Houston Food Bank’s Keegan Kitchen incorporated vegetables in their Kids’ Cafe meals (hot meals delivered to children enrolled in afterschool programs) and worked to emphasize the importance of vegetable intake for children at Kids’ Cafe sites. “For the last two weeks of March, Kids’ Cafe sites encouraged veggie consumption with the opportunity to compete for a frozen yogurt party sponsored by Menchies’,” says Brady. “Participating Kids Cafe sites submitted photos of students enjoying their veggies and site coordinators submitted a 200-word response discussing the VegOut! Challenge at their site to win the Menchies’ froyo party!”
Brady says even Houston Food Bank’s CEO, Brian Greene, took the VegOut! Challenge, recording his experience trying new vegetables throughout the month of March. HFB employees followed suit, and turned the challenge into an intra-Food Bank competition, complete with a veggie tally leaderboard feature face photo cutouts of staff members.
“VegOut! is a great opportunity to continue with employee-wide health and wellness efforts,” says Brady. “For Food Bank clients, it offers us an opportunity to leverage our Nutrition Education and Kids’ Cafe programming to promote greater consumption of fresh produce. We hope that the month-long VegOut! campaign will have sustained effects on vegetable consumption for both employees and food bank clients.”
Brady says sharing the experience with others via social media is both encouraging to all participants and rewarding for the staff. “We loved that we could be a part of the VegOut! conversation on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag ‘#VegOut2015’, she said. “It was a great way to share how we’ve incorporated the VegOut! Challenge in the Kids’ Cafe meals that Keegan Kitchen prepares and distributes.
At Recipe for Success, we are looking forward to VegOut! 2016 with our partners at the Houston Food Bank.