Family life

The importance of good nutrition: Operation Soul Food

Jennifer is proud to be a part of an initiative raising awareness on the importance of wholesome foods for Toronto's homeless and at-risk women.

By Jennifer Pinarski
The importance of good nutrition: Operation Soul Food

Photo courtesy of Street Haven.

The question I am most often about running and motherhood is “where does all of your energy come from?”
The answer is simple: food.
That’s right, no magic pill or sleep. Besides, with a toddler that still keeps me up at night and refuses to nap during the day, I can’t always rely on getting a good amount of shut eye. The best way to make sure I have the energy to tackle a long run or keeping up with my two- and five-year-old children is to make sure that I’m eating the cleanest and most nutritious food.
While I have always been attentive to the quantity of food that I eat (hello shedding pregnancy pounds  !  ), training for my first ultra-marathon truly sparked an interest in the quality of food we eat. After my first long back-to-back runs I had a hard time shaking feelings of depression, pain and fatigue. My running friends were quick to point to my diet as the culprit. Sure, I was eating a lot of food — most of it the budget-stretching staples of whole wheat noodles and carrot sticks — but I could be eating better. So I set out (all ninja-stealth-like, trying not to scare my carnivorous husband who is highly suspicious of my agenda to get him to stop eating meat and wheat), slowly adding more beans, a wider variety of raw fruits and vegetables and shopping at the farmer’s markets for locally raised beef and chicken. Today, I’m very proud of how my family eats and I'm surprised that swapping out processed and imported foods doesn’t cost much more than the whole foods that I’m serving up at meal times.
This is all fine and well for my own family, where I have the advantage of being able to shop locally and prepare the foods I want. But what about the women and children who don't have a say about the foods they eat because of their reliance on support services? Sadly, families living below the poverty line have access to less than one serving of fruits and vegetables a day — far below the 10 servings needed for true sustained health. The processed foods typically served in homeless shelters set women and children up for increased risk of vitamin deficiency, ADHA, asthma and immune imbalances. 
Thankfully, Toronto’s Street Haven isn’t like most homeless shelters. In 2011, Street Haven served 43,800 fresh meals to their clients (at a cost of $502.60 per woman). Wanting to increase this program, Street Haven created of a new fundraising initiative, Operation Soul Food, of which I am a very proud ambassador. Along with the rest of the Operation Soul Food Team (Julie Daniluk, Samantha Montpetit-Huynh and Lianne Phillipson-Webb), I’ll be working to to raise awareness about the importance of wholesome foods for these women and fundraising so that Street Haven can continue to serve them. Look for us on Twitter (follow the #operationsoulfood hashtag), Facebook and on the streets of Toronto on October 14th as we run in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I’ll be tackling my first marathon — naturally fuelled by fresh fruits and veggies.
To learn more about Operation Soul Food, Street Haven or donation information, please visit their website.
This article was originally published on Oct 03, 2012

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