Fourteen years ago, when Sherry Johnson joined the CCC of Boynton Beach, part-time, she began questioning the way tummies were being filled. “When you’re serving a community where people have a lot of high blood pressure, and you’re handing out cans [of food] filled with nothing but sodium,” thought Johnson, now the center’s executive director, “what are you doing but perpetuating the situation?”
Out of that reasoning, in time, the food pantry became the Green Market and twice-weekly deliveries to 130 frail and elderly shut-ins became healthier. Now, every Friday, the center’s Veggie Mobile takes locally grown fruit and vegetables and homemade soup to homebound residents of what the center calls “the Heart of Boynton.”
An interfaith organization, the center marked its 27th year in October, Johnson says. It does all that it does thanks to seven paid staffers, four non-paid staffers and 65 volunteers. The Veggie Mobile is handled by one staffer, a board vice-president and volunteers, all of whom visit with homebound recipients, check for malnutrition and dehydration and offer healthy meal suggestions.
But deliveries are only a part of the center’s work: It also produces much of what it provides. In 2009, in partnership with the University of Florida, through the Palm Beach County Extension Office, it initiated an urban farm that grows much of the produce for the Veggie Mobile, the food pantry and a nutrition-education program.
“We use food to teach pre-schoolers and give cooking classes to adults,” Johnson says. “Most of the children [from Girtmans Treasure Chest Early Learning Centre] have no sense of fruits and vegetables, except for corn and grapes and potatoes — finger foods.”
The Green Market farm’s nutrition lessons are colorful ones: Yellow is for grapefruit and squash; green is for broccoli and lettuce; orange is for, well, oranges.
“The children are making healthy snacks, tasting different things, learning colors and learning about calcium and iron, and we introduced the word ‘antioxidants,’” Johnson says. “By the time we got to yellow and spaghetti squash, they just love it, and they’re coming back for seconds.”
The children’s parents learn how to prepare meals using fruits and vegetables, and they get portions of all the produce their children learn about. The Green Market’s new program this year will offer the entire community an affordable package of good-quality produce, meats and fish: 7½ pounds of meat; a 2-pound pork loin; two 6-ounce portions of mahi-mahi; two 6-ounce portions of salmon; 6 ounces of bacon; and a 3½-pound chicken, all for $28. An additional $6, buys a package of salad ingredients and seasonal vegetables.
Without help, Johnson says, “This community can’t afford fruit and vegetables because it’s cheaper to go to McDonald’s and get a $1 sandwich.”
Community Caring Center of Boynton Beach
145 N.E. 4th Ave.,
Or through Coastal Star/microgiving.com fundraising effort: www.microgiving.com/profile/sherryccc
Needs: Monetary donations