Program addresses the root causes of hunger and poor nutrition – By Ida Ortegon Posted on February 13, 2017 by Ida Ortegon Wouldn’t it be great to have someone follow you through a grocery store and assist you with information and support on how to live a healthy and productive lifestyle? With support from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Initiative, the Kelly Memorial Food Pantry’s Fresh Start program is doing this and more. The program is one of its kind in the nation and supports individuals by addressing the root causes of hunger and focusing on skills of individuals that can be used throughout their life. Members of the program receive training in nutrition education, needs assessment, and supportive coaching. “Hunger is not just caused by a lack of food, but also a lack of human capital (including education, employment, and income), social support and social capital,” said David Austin, Executive Director of Kelly Memorial Food Pantry. “Any attempt to improve long-term food insecurity requires more than just short-term food.” Members of the program are understanding the value of healthy eating and active living, which is the goal of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s HEAL Initiative. “Fresh Start holds the promise of addressing root causes of hunger and poor nutrition, while address food insecurity,” says Michael Kelly, Vice President of Programs with the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. “To put a spin on an old metaphor, we are handing people a fish, while teaching them to fish.” On Thursday, December 15, the Fresh Start program will celebrate the first graduation class. After nine months of hard work, 14 individuals will participate in a “Sunflower Ceremony” at the Kelly Memorial Food Pantry. A member of the program shares her thoughts, “I think this program has helped me. It is a motivation to do things I never thought. They have interesting classes like Diabetes Prevention and Nutrition. They motivate you to succeed in school and find work. This program is excellent for me, it has been a great help. I hope the program continues so they can help more people like me.” The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry is a nonprofit organization located in central El Paso, Texas. It is the largest food pantry, serving 2,500 families per month. For more information on the Kelly Memorial Food Pantry or the Fresh Start program, call 915-261-7499.