Cary, NC – Food banks and food pantries are good resources for families but often the foods donated are not optimally nutritious. But one local Girl Scout has worked with food pantries and their donors to make sure healthier food is getting to the people of the Triangle.
Healthy Eating and Healthy Living
Anneka Kleine, a senior at Cary Academy, developed the Healthy Eating and Living (HEAL) Project to partner with food pantry donors to start bringing in healthier items.
“I’ve always been interested in healthy eating and healthy living,” Kleine said. “My church runs a garden that donates its produce to food pantries so I’ve been connected through that.”
For her project, Kleine received the Gold Award from the Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines, which is the top award a Girl Scout can receive.
In addition to working with food pantries and donors to start bringing in nutritious foods, Kleine also set up an easy to read cooking guide and recipe book to give out at local food pantries. This idea came from Kleine shadowing food pantries and learning about some the larger issues when it came to healthy eating.
“A lot of times, it wasn’t that people weren’t eating healthy food, it’s that they didn’t know how to prepare them,” Kleine said. “It’s easier to make a box of mac and cheese than to make a healthy meal.”
As part of her recipes, Kleine included ways to incorporate fresh ingredients into more common boxed foods at the food pantry to make it easier to put together a healthy meal.
Processed vs. Fresh
In order to bring in better food, Kleine set up booths at farmers’ markets to educate people about food pantries and the problem of too much unhealthy food in them.
“A lot of what you find is processed, boxed meals that don’t have a lot of nutritional value,” she said.
While these are often easier to make, Kleine encouraged people to donate whole grain pasta or rice instead.
“They’re also easy to make without all of the sugars and chemicals you’d find in processed foods,” she said.
With her interest in healthy living, Kleine said her plans for college are to study biochemistry and engineering.
“I want to go into a medical field so that seems like a good background to have,” she said.
With the HEAL Project, Kleine is one of only 5 percent of Girl Scouts who ever receive the Gold Award.
“Through her project, Anneka has demonstrated she possesses the proven qualities of a community leader and the Girl Scout Gold Award designation is truly a remarkable achievement,” said Lisa Jones, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines. “She recognized a need in her community and took action to create a sustainable response.”
Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of Anneka Kleine and Ashley Winton.