Allina volunteers to package meals for those in need

Community members from across the Allina Health service area are invited to join Allina Health employee volunteers to package 200,000 healthy meals for neighbors in need tomorrow (Saturday, June 1).

This event promotes healthy eating on a budget and the 2013 grant application process for Neighborhood Health ConnectionTM.

The meal packing events will be held at 40 Allina Health locations, from 9 to 11 a.m. on June 1 including:

• Mercy Hospital, 4050 Coon Rapids Blvd., Coon Rapids;

• Unity Hospital, 550 Osborne Road, Fridley;

• Allina Medical Clinic – Blaine, 10705 Town Square Drive N.E., Blaine;

• Allina Medical Clinic – Coon Rapids, 9055 Springbrook Drive N.W., Coon Rapids; and

• Allina Medical Clinic – Ramsey, 7231 Sunwood Drive N.W., Ramsey.

The first 50 community members to participate at each site will receive a free T-shirt.

“Our healthy meals event is especially timely as food shelves experience higher demand because kids are out of school and people make fewer donations in the summer,” said Dr. Scott Flaata, internal medicine physician at Allina Medical Clinic – Edina.

“The meal packs assembled by volunteers will not only fill an increased need for food donations, they also provide healthy meal options which are sometimes scarce at food shelves.”

The meals will be donated to more than 75 community organizations, including food shelves, shelters, schools and religious organizations, throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Allina Health has purchased more than a quarter million pounds of food for the project. Each meal pack assembled by volunteers will include cans of black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, chicken and a bag of brown rice — enough to feed four.

The June 1 event kicks off the 2013 Neighborhood Health Connection™ grant program.

Allina Health will award grants to groups or organizations who submit ideas for bringing people together to do healthy activities.

The purpose of the healthy activity grants is to support group activities that promote social connections and increase healthy behaviors (healthy eating, active living).

“Research shows that social connectedness is an important determinant of health; people are more likely to engage in and maintain healthy behaviors when done with others,” said Flaata.

“Whether it’s volunteering at events like this, starting a walking group or planting a community garden, people can take small, simple steps to a healthier life — just by doing something with their neighbors or community groups.”

Online applications will be accepted now through June 14. Winners will be announced via email July 10.

Visit neighborhoodhealthconnection.org to download free resources, including a toolkit that gives people additional support to form stronger connections with their neighbors. It offers ideas about how to form a neighborhood group and tips on how to organize activities.

Neighborhood Health Connection is a community program developed by Allina Health that gives people the tools they need to create stronger connections with their neighbors, and offers fun, creative ways to make their communities healthier.

The goal is to help neighbors make new personal connections and strengthen existing ones.

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