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Healthy Munchies at Monchy


In urban settings such as Trenton, N.J., it can be tough for residents to find the ingredients they need to craft healthy meals. 

That’s why a group of young girls from the Trenton branch of the YMCA recently spent an afternoon showing fellow residents how to craft healthy and affordable dishes using ingredients found at their local bodega.

The girls teamed up with Chef Dave Nuss from the Children’s Aid Society of New York to prepare dishes such as canned fruit smoothies, cheese quesadillas and corn and bean salad outside of the Monchy convenience store on Aug. 23. The group then offered Monchy customers and passersby the opportunity to try the snacks.

“They used only ingredients that were found in Monchy. They had to be healthy,” says Marissa Davis, project manager for the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Trenton. “I think the folks really liked the corn bean salad and the fruit smoothies.”

The eight girls who took part in the demonstration were all participants in a program called “Tweet 2 Eat,” which is run through the Women’s Fund of New Jersey. The program is designed to teach girls ages 11 to 15 how to advocate for health-related issues such as nutrition, including by using technology such as social media.

Throughout the course of the program, the girls learned about issues related to food justice such as how many communities lack access to fresh and affordable healthy food. They also were taught how to craft healthy meals and identify unhealthy products by doing things such as reading nutrition labels.

Their efforts culminated with the cooking demonstration outside Monchy. Although Chef Nuss helped the girls prepare the meals, the youngsters were the ones who made the decisions about what to serve, as they picked out what ingredients to use and bought them themselves, Davis says.

“All of the customers who were going in to Monchy or folks who just saw us on the corner… pulled over,” Davis recalls. “The girls talked about the importance of being healthy.”

Davis says that customers “loved” the dishes the girls helped create — and she noted that wasn’t the only honor the program received, either.

The New Jersey Legislature recently passed a joint resolution recognizing the Tweet 2 Eat program and Women’s Fund of New Jersey for their efforts to educate young people and the greater community about issues related to food justice, Davis says.

Click here to connect with Marissa Davis.