Spoonful of Servings.

News, stories, updates and more from our community and kitchens.

World AIDS Day

By Ethan Ouimet, RDN, LDN

In commemoration of World AIDS Day, we at Community Servings wanted to take this opportunity to discuss why this day dedicated to raising awareness for AIDS is so meaningful to us. If you are familiar with Community Servings, you may know that we provide food for people with critical and chronic illnesses across Massachusetts. Not just food – nutritionally-appropriate medically tailored meals for people experiencing diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular diseases, and more.

But what you may not know is that Community Servings originated with a much more specific mission in mind. Community Servings was founded more than 30 years ago at the height of the AIDS epidemic to provide home-delivered meals for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Boston area. Over time, the number of clients and types of illnesses they’re experiencing has significantly expanded. Still, our dedication to providing meals and services to people living with HIV/AIDS has remained the same. With more than 23,000 people in Massachusetts living with HIV, this mission remains as vital as it has ever been. While HIV may not come to the top of your mind when you think of nutrition-related illnesses, food and food access play a crucial role in HIV management.

What is HIV/AIDS? HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and it works by attacking the body’s immune system. The virus attacks immune cells called CD4 cells, which identify and destroy foreign organisms in the body. Left untreated, the number of CD4 cells in the body decreases, and it becomes more difficult to fight off infections. A deficient number of CD4 cells left in the body results in a diagnosis of AIDS. In other words, AIDS is a disease caused by the damage HIV has on the immune system.

How is HIV/AIDS treated? Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for HIV, but the treatment of the virus has significantly improved over the years. Treatment typically consists of one or more medications used to help prevent the growth and spread of the infection.

Why are proper nutrition and food access so important? Nutrition plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy weight and preventing chronic diseases associated with HIV infection. In fact, HIV infection and medications are associated with several nutrition-related health outcomes that we’ll break down into two contrasting categories for this article.

  1. HIV can be associated with severe weight loss, muscle wasting, body fat loss, and undernutrition. These symptoms are more likely to occur in those with more severe or poorly controlled infections. In addition, significant weight loss can further increase the risk for opportunistic infections.
  2. In contrast, the new generation of HIV medications is associated with an excessive increase in body fat, creating a higher risk for certain chronic diseases. For example, type 2 diabetes mellitus is 1.5 times more common in people with HIV, putting them at greater risk for complications such as cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and early death. However, it is more likely to occur in those who are overweight or obese when beginning treatment for HIV.

Proper access to healthy, nutritious foods can go a long way toward helping people living with HIV reach a healthy body weight, reduce the risk of opportunistic infection, and prevent or manage other chronic conditions such as diabetes.

What is Community Servings doing to help combat these issues and support this population? Food insecurity (defined as the lack of access to sufficient food, or adequate food quality, to meet basic needs) remains a critical challenge faced by many people living with HIV. In fact, food insecurity is 2-3 times more common among people with HIV than those without the disease. As mentioned, food insecurity can lead to increased medical complications and higher costs of healthcare. Community Servings helps mitigate this problem by providing free, home-delivered medically tailored meals designed to meet the nutritional needs of our clients. Additionally, we offer free nutrition counseling for all our clients to help them make good decisions when it comes to their food to help support a healthy lifestyle.

Interested in helping to support our mission? There are many ways to help support our mission to improve food access and health outcomes for people living with HIV! Here are a few ways you can help:

  1. Volunteer: As one of Boston’s largest volunteer programs, we welcome volunteers of all abilities to prepare meals in our kitchen, occasionally deliver meals to clients, and help with our fundraising efforts and special events. For more information on how to sign-up and what to expect when volunteering, please visit Volunteer | Servings.
  2. Donate: Donations of any amount are welcome and appreciated. A gift of just $30 helps provide a week’s worth of nutritious meals for a critically ill neighbor. For more information, please visit Donate | Servings.

Flavorful Fall Recipes

By Community Servings Staff:

The crisp fall weather means it’s time for apple picking, pumpkin carving, and leaf peeping! With the temperature dropping every day, it’s also the perfect opportunity to incorporate hearty fall staples, such as squash, sweet potato, and brussels sprouts, into your dishes.

Even on the chilliest of days, Butternut Squash Curry with Spinach will keep you warm while serving up rich, tangy flavors. A member of the squash family, butternut squash is a great source of fiber, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. It also is essentially free from fat, cholesterol, and sodium.

RDN Colleen Forrest was kind enough to share this recipe during our weekly Learning Kitchen Live series on Facebook. Check out our Youtube channel for other healthy recipes like Cheesy Quinoa Burgers, Roasted Broccoli Salad, and Zucchini Lasagna Roll-ups, or tune in on Thursdays at 12:15 PM to catch our live episodes.

Need autumnal drink inspiration as well?

Pick up fresh apple cider from your local orchard (or the grocery store) and make an Apple Pie Mimosa! Or dine out at Davio’s and ask for this pie-themed drink! For every cocktail sold now through November 30th, Tito’s Handmade Vodka will donate $1 to Community Servings in support of our annual Pie in the Sky fundraiser bake sale.

Determining Your Diabetes Risk

Did you know that nearly one out of every three people in America has prediabetes, and one in ten adults worldwide is living with diabetes?

The good news is that diabetes is a manageable disease, and for many at risk, it can be prevented or delayed. So what is diabetes?

There are several forms of diabetes, the most common being Type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes typically develops in adulthood and is characterized by the body’s inability to properly use insulin – the hormone needed for cells to absorb blood sugar.  As a result, people with diabetes may need to follow specific nutrition guidelines, increase their activity level, and take medications to keep their blood sugar levels healthy.

If you do not have diabetes, the first step to prevention is to know your risks.  Several things can put you at risk for developing the disease, including age, gender, family history, etc.  By taking a quick one-minute online test, you can self-screen to understand your risk factors.

If you are at risk, the best ways to prevent the onset of diabetes are to follow these two guidelines: 1) reach a healthy body weight.  For most people, losing about 7% of their body weight (usually about 10-15 pounds) is enough to improve their metabolism to delay the onset of diabetes.  2) be physically active for two and a half hours out of the week. For example, by walking about 20 minutes a day, you can quickly achieve the recommended activity level.

Similarly, people living with diabetes can manage their blood sugar levels with a regular physical activity routine and an eating pattern consistent with carbohydrates (or starches and sugars).  Like those prepared at Community Servings, Medically Tailored Meals keep starches and sugars at a healthy level for people with diabetes.  Dennis, a CS client living with diabetes, shares how medically tailored meals helped him to manage his diabetes and provide for his three-year-old son Liam:

Since receiving the meals from Community Servings, my blood sugar levels are much more consistent.  It was hard for me to ask for help getting my health on track, but now that I did, I feel so much better and have more energy to do things with Liam.”

During American Diabetes Month this November, diabetes doesn’t have to be a burden.  If you don’t have diabetes, take a minute to learn your risks.  And if you do have diabetes, know the available resources in your community so that you don’t have to manage your diabetes alone!

Q+A with Pie Seller Matt K.

With fall in full swing, we’re gearing up for our annual Pie in the Sky bake sale…and we’re looking for pie sellers! In its 29th year, we rely on an army of 500+ pie sellers to help raise critical funding that will allow us to feed thousands of critically and chronically ill individuals and their families across Massachusetts. With a variety of pies on the menu – apple, pumpkin, pecan, and more – each pie provides one week’s worth of meals for a Community Servings client.

A pie seller veteran, Matt Kurkowski has years of experience peddling pies virtually and in-person. We asked Matt several questions about how he got involved with Pie in the Sky, what makes a good pie seller, what he’s looking forward to this year, and his favorite pie flavor.

How did you get involved with Community Servings?

It was almost pure chance – I was working at Zipcar at the time and responsible for writing the member newsletter, which one week in 2008 included a call for volunteers to help deliver boxes for the Pie Box Party. Seeing the need was somewhat urgent, I thought—why not sign up myself? It took all of five minutes reading about CS on the website to convince me this was an organization with a big heart and even bigger mission.

What makes a good pie seller?

The good news is—anyone can be a great pie seller! I’ve found the key to success is experimenting and learning what works best for you personally. Some people like the traditional approach of selling in person to friends and family while others branch out and sell entirely to new people online.

The key is to just get started and not overthink it. I’ve been doing this for 10+ years, but every year, selling that first pie is the hardest. It’s like a warm-up, even with years of experience you need that first sale to get back your pie-selling muscle memory but once you do, every one after that gets easier and easier.

What’s your favorite part of the pie sale?

My favorite two days of the year are the days around Pie Central. I usually help out picking up pies from our partner restaurants the first day, then do the whole process in reverse the next day delivering quality-checked-and-packed pies out to the pick-up sites. I rent a van and at this point have a whole kit I’ve honed for the day—Sharpies to mark boxes, extra phone chargers and batteries (GPS is a drain!), a hand truck and a solid playlist top the list.

It’s my favorite part of the sale because it’s a chance to meet all the people in the community who help support Pie that you don’t see during the day-to-day: the bakers, the restaurant owners, the pick-up site captains and tons more along the way. Just like the CS staff and seller volunteers, their genuine, see-it-on-their-faces gratitude to be involved in such an undertaking makes me happy in ways few other things do.

Why should others become a pie seller?

I often look back on that day when I first decided to give it a shot and help out with delivering boxes—it felt like such a small, new thing to try at the time that I almost thought nothing of it, but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it fundamentally changed my life for the better. (I well up now even writing this.) The sense of purpose and satisfaction in seeing the work you do help and benefit others has no substitute; it’s one of the greatest joys I’ve come to look forward to every year. When the sale is wrapped up, and the numbers are read out and you know you helped put food on the table for those who will need it all year, it’s hard not to feel proud and deeply satisfied knowing the work you did will have an incredible impact on someone else’s life for months to come.

And on top of that, I’ve made so many friends and connections along the way, people I likely would have never met if it weren’t for Pie. Volunteering is the great equalizer—I can remember being just a year or two into my professional career and sitting in committee meetings having my voice and thoughts heard alongside people who were at the peaks of their professions, out from the c-suite to sit side-by-side with other volunteers to bring this whole crazy idea to life. You’re all there for the common mission and it deepens your faith in the power of teamwork and the goodness of others in your community.

Do you have any tips or tricks for new pie sellers?

When it comes to getting started, I’ll borrow a few words from Nike: just do it. Don’t overthink it, don’t doubt yourself, don’t even consider the reasons why not. Just sign up for a volunteer shift; complete the form to be a seller; get your page set up and ask for your first sale—even if it doesn’t go perfectly, you’ll build just a bit of momentum that’ll build on itself. There’s a whole team of volunteers and the CS staff that have mastered the art of making sure you’ll be successful, so there’s no reason not to give it a go. If you avoid that moment of pause that lets doubt in by moving quickly and just following one step after another, you’ll suddenly look back in ten years and wonder how you ever spent the fall doing anything else.

What’s your favorite pie flavor?

Hands down: pecan. (If the filling is firm enough, skip the fork and plate all together—there’s benefits to a slice of pizza and a slice of pie looking so similar…)

Sign Up to Sell Pies

HEALTHY CANDY ALTERNATIVES

Want to see something really creepy this Halloween? Check the nutrition label of your favorite sweet. There’s not a whole lot in there besides sugar! With so much sugar-loaded candy available to kids and adults alike, it can be a tricky time of year to eat healthily.

Thankfully, Colleen Forrest, a Research Dietitian at Community Servings, has put together tips you can follow to make smarter choices during this spooky season – both for you and those trick-or-treating!

Choose treats that are nutrient-dense

Many types of candy provide “empty calories,” meaning they provide calories from added sugars and solid fats without any other nutrition.  Nutrient-dense treats, on the other hand, supply your body with nutrients in addition to just calories.  Here are some examples of nutrient-dense treats:

  • Dark chocolate: rich in antioxidants, which fight a variety of diseases
  • Chocolate covered almonds or peanuts: high in fiber, protein, and heart-healthy fats
  • 100% real fruit strips: sweet from naturally occurring sugars with vitamins and minerals too
  • Raisinets, blood oranges, and other fruit: provides all the benefits of 100% real fruit strips with fiber too! There are lots of ways to dress up fruit as festive treats for the season.

Opt for non-food treats.

What kid doesn’t love glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth?  You can be the standout house on the block by providing a different kind of Halloween treat to trick-or-treaters that will last longer than a sugar rush.  Here are some non-food treats to try this season:

  • Slime
  • Novelty Halloween eyeglasses
  • Glow sticks
  • Bubbles
  • Bouncy balls
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Foam masks
  • Slinkys
  • Yo-yos
  • Erasers

Keep it light.

If you want to have that piece of candy, have that piece of candy!  You should still be able to enjoy those sweet treats from time to time.  But going for the fun-size instead of the king-size can help to keep your portions light.  Having a small piece of candy once or twice a day can satisfy your sweet tooth without feeling like an overindulgence.  Some sweet and salty treats that are on the lighter side include Rice Krispy treats, pretzels, and popcorn balls.

Get moving!

Celebrate the season with an activity!  Dress up in costume and dance along to your favorite Halloween tunes.  Or walk through a corn maze or haunted house. Most importantly, have fun!  It’s an exciting time of year and following these tips can help you enjoy the Halloween season in a healthy way.

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