Posted by Kristen Pufahl

Imagine you are a single mom with children from infant to school-age living at a homeless motel. You live in one room with your children, a crib, stroller, and baby toys, and all of your other belongings. Even the desk space is taken up by baby bottle drying racks. You only have a small microwave, mini-fridge, and bathroom sink to use to prepare meals for your family, and the only place to store baby and adult food is the small shelf in the closet. Grocery shopping is difficult, since you rely on the bus to transport you and your child the three miles to the nearest supermarket. Figuring out meals is only one part of all you are trying to navigate while finding a way to a more stable situation for your family.

Each month, our nutrition group reaches families living in exactly this situation. We share ways to eat healthy on a limited budget despite the living space constraints. Most recently, we prepared a delicious, healthy, no-cooking required Southwestern Corn and Black Bean Salad together. This meal costs only $1.80 per serving – cheaper than the average fast food or frozen meal – and is tasty for an entire family while meeting registered dietitian approved nutrition criteria.

One mom said she never would have thought to put corn and beans together in the same dish. Another mom had never tried red cabbage before, and was excited to use cabbage in new ways with her family. All of the moms planned to add this as a regular meal for their families, and they were eager for their children to taste it as well.

This is what the JF&CS Nutrition Services programs are all about: providing an opportunity for people to experience healthy foods in an accessible way that makes it easier to apply in their everyday lives. These programs are more than just a nutrition group; they empower families with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to prepare healthy meals, thereby improving nutritional health for all.

Kristen Pufahl is a licensed, registered dietitian working in the JF&CS Nutrition Services program. In addition to her work counseling clients, training staff, and running groups, she chairs the Healthy JF&CS committee. She received her BS in business administration from Georgetown University and her MS in nutrition from Boston University.