Every week News4JAX teams up with the Blue Zones Project Jacksonville to show off local, healthy food options.
Meals on Wings, a meal program at the University of North Florida, collaborates with the Blue Zones Project to raise awareness about just how common it is to be food and nutrient insecure.
Meals on Wings steps in and provides healthy meals to 250 seniors in the area who are on the waitlist for “Meals on Wheels.”
The program makes sure that low-income senior citizens get the healthy food they need.
“It’s such an important thing. A lot of our seniors, they’re so grateful. They send us thank you notes. They knit us things at Christmas,” assistant director Meghan Niemczyk said.
The program started in 2018 at the school’s Center for Nutrition and Food Security.
Students and staff collect extra food from local hospitals and prepare them in a healthy way.
Niemczyk said her goal is to make sure every meal has a vegetable.
“When we recover food, often we get potatoes and meatloaf. Or we get rice and beans. But we don’t get a lot of vegetables,” Niemczyk said. “We keep backup vegetables in the freezer. We have canned vegetables if we need it. Things to make sure we round out the meal. We’re not just sending them food; we’re sending them the vital nutrients they need to be healthy. “
The program collaborates with the Blue Zones Project Jacksonville to make sure healthy choices are easy choices.
“Blue Zones is really focused on the longevity, so that’s what we’re trying to do with the good nutrients, helping the senior population with their longevity, but also with their connectedness,” Niemczyk said. “That’s really an important part of this equation.”
Nursing student Lyla Palompo has been volunteering with Meals on Wings for nearly two years.
“We give four meals a day. And sometimes that’s all they have for the whole week. And you need three meals a day. Some people just don’t have the money or access for that,” Palompo said. “For us to help them do that, is just amazing to me.”
Niemczyk hopes this program helps raise awareness about the importance of being nourished and healthy.
“There’s food insecurity and nutrient insecurity so close that you probably don’t even realize it. Sometimes it might even be a neighbor. Food is a fundamental right,” Niemczyk said.
Meals on Wings is always accepting donations. Go to bit.ly/mealsonwings.
The Blue Zones project is encouraging everyone to take the Blue Zones Pledge because living a healthier lifestyle is easier than you think. Learn more here: https://bluezonesprojectjacksonville.com.