Shaneena Holland, Sunocast PACE Lifestyle Coach

Nutritious foods are an important part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, yet they can be difficult to obtain for many people. Others may simply not know how to prepare them in a way that tastes good and still have health benefits.

This National Nutrition Month, Suncoast PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), a member of Empath Health, is launching a new initiative to make it easier for participants to obtain and prepare healthy foods.

“This is really about accessibility,” says Shaneena Holland, lifestyle coach for Suncoast PACE. “We want our participants to not only be able to have healthy foods, but know how to prepare them in healthful ways.”

Twice a month, Feeding Tampa Bay will be bringing their Groceries on the Go food truck directly to the Suncoast PACE Day Center for use by participants. This grocery shopping experience is open to members of the Suncoast PACE’s healthy living program and diabetes prevention cohort. Each qualifying participant will have the opportunity to redeem vouchers for fresh produce and other low-sodium and low-fat foods.

Vouchers are earned by participating in educational activities that encompass aspects of wellness for the mind and the body. To earn a voucher, at least three different activities need to be completed during the week. Participants can partake in activities like chair yoga or stretching, mindful meditation and social activities like trivia and meal preparation.

“Nutrition trivia games have been a great way to get conversations going about common misconceptions and different ways that healthy habits can be incorporated into daily routines,” adds Holland.

Before the grocery truck arrives, Holland is informed as to what foods will be available. With that information, she can help participants create meal plans for the coming weeks and create grocery lists.

“You would be surprised how many don’t cook or don’t meal plan, but would still like to learn,” says Holland. “I hope to give them those skills and maybe even create recipes for them to make with their shopping.”

In addition to visits from the Groceries on the Go food truck, Holland is also helping program participants cultivate a vegetable garden at the Day Center. It’s an opportunity for social activity outside and another way to make veggies more accessible. Currently they are growing tomatoes, kale, beets, carrot, beans, herbs and several types of lettuce.

“The participants like to come out and help. Get their hands in the dirt,” adds Holland. “Once we go to harvest we plan to use it in a food demo and send the rest home with participants.”

The healthy living program at Suncoast PACE is supported by a grant from Florida Blue with the goal of encouraging healthy habits and increasing the availability of healthy foods.

Learn more about Suncoast PACE and how our team helps participants achieve a healthy quality of life, stay active and socially connected and live safely and independently at home and in the community.