Eating Healthy One Bite at a Time
As a Clinical Nutrition Manager at Saint Joseph Hospital in Chicago, Leslee Carver dedicated her career to helping people make smart food choices.
For 30 years she developed menus for hospital units, supervised a staff of clinical dieticians and worked with patients to create safe and healthy eating plans. “I found my calling in applied science,” Leslee says. “I was always able to read and understand scientific literature and translate it into common language. And I’m obsessed with food. It was a perfect fit.”
So when Leslee retired in 2013, she wanted to continue her work connecting the community with nutritious food options. She was already familiar with Lakeview Pantry through her work at the hospital (Saint Joseph has supported the Pantry through the years in many ways – including food drives and financial donations). And her background as a dietician met a need at the Broadway location.
“I had been volunteering for a couple of months when I ran into Stuart (Lakeview Pantry’s Director of Operations and Programing) and said, ‘If you guys need more technical assistance with classes or nutrition, I’m a registered dietician, and I’d love to help,” Leslee explains. “Then Greg (Lakeview Pantry’s Broadway location Coordinator) approached me about doing Healthy Bites.”
Started at Lakeview Pantry’s Oakdale location, Healthy Bites is a program designed to introduce clients to recipes that can be made using ingredients commonly distributed at the Pantry. At both locations, volunteers create healthy dishes with Pantry staples and then distribute samples to interested clients.
“The goal is to offer clients as much as we can in the way of healthy foods,” says Leslee, “and to demonstrate how they could easily be utilized.”
For 12 months now Leslee has planned and hosted the Healthy Bites class at the Broadway location – from finding and typing the recipes, to prepping food, to handing out samples and cleaning up. “Since the Pantry doesn’t have a kitchen, we do all cold foods – everything from smoothies to Italian bread salad,” she says. “I tried to always do demos with at least two recipes.”
Leslee creates the recipes at home and taste-tests them to ensure they will “pass muster with clients.” She says, “The reception of the foods really varies. Sweeter stuff always goes over extremely well. Tastes vary by ethnic group, too.”
Leslee has also made an effort to keep her recipes seasonal – from soup in the winter to cold kale salads and homemade French dressing in the warmer months.
The ultimate goal of Healthy Bites, Leslee says, is to encourage clients to try the recipes and take home the foods necessary to make them. But, she shares, Healthy Bites has been great for building up the Lakeview Pantry community, too. “People enjoy the fact that someone is making the effort to make the food and share it with them.”
To learn more about Healthy Bites and other events held at both Lakeview Pantry locations, visit lakeviewpantry.org/events.
To learn more about how you can help support Lakeview Pantry, visit lakeviewpantry.org/ways-to-give.