The Fortune Society and Aetna Foundation Celebrate Food & Nutrition Program for Low-Income Families

The Fortune Society and Aetna Foundation Celebrate Food & Nutrition Program for Low-Income Families

-- West Harlem Families Present Healthy Food Cooking Demonstration --

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Harlem resident and mother, Barbara Biscaino, presented a live cooking demonstration today preparing her favorite healthy dish -- corn and cucumber salad -- in front of a live audience that included Manhattan Deputy Borough President Rose Pierre-Louis; JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society; Sharon Dalton, Vice President of the Aetna Foundation; and Harlem families. Biscaino learned how to prepare the dish as well as dozens of other healthy meals while participating in The Fortune Society's Food & Nutrition Program for Families & Children. The cooking demonstration, which was held at The Fortune Society's LEED-certified, affordable housing facility known as Castle Gardens, highlighted the success of the food and nutrition program.

In December 2011, with a $25,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation and a supplemental grant from the New York State Department of Health's Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP), The Fortune Society launched the Food & Nutrition Program for Families & Children. Since the program began, approximately 800 Fortune families and children, which include formerly incarcerated adults and residents of Fortune's housing facilities in Harlem, have attended a series of nutrition education workshops, including Taste and Texture and Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables. They also have participated in 35 cooking demonstrations, taking home bags of fresh produce after each one. The produce is provided by local suppliers Corbin Hill Road Farm and Brooklyn Grange Farm, which operates urban rooftop farms in Brooklyn and Queens. The two suppliers have distributed more than 4,500 pounds of fresh produce to Fortune clients and community members.

Since beginning the program, Biscaino and her daughter have learned how to convert their favorite foods into healthier alternatives; select, store and preserve fresh produce; prepare healthy, delicious and affordable meals; sanitize a kitchen; and write recipes.

"Before enrolling in this program, my daughter and I would eat fast food three or four days a week, putting our health on the back burner. Now, our entire outlook on healthy eating has changed. Every day, we prepare and cook healthy meals together, making sure to include fresh fruit and vegetables into all of them. Because of this change, we both feel more energetic and will hopefully live longer. I have already lost a few pounds," said Biscaino.

"Many of our Fortune families live on a tight budget, eating whatever food is most affordable and assuming healthy meals are too costly to prepare," said JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society. "The Food & Nutrition Program shows our families that they can prepare healthy, affordable meals and equips them with recipes and culinary skills that will last a lifetime. We thank the Aetna Foundation and the NYS Department of Health Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program for supporting this program and helping our families make healthy eating a top priority in their daily lives."

In the upcoming year, the program will continue to offer regular cooking demonstrations and will increase the number of hands-on workshops so that more participants can learn by cooking during class. The class curriculum will have a greater focus on the participants' needs, such as child and family nutrition, heart-healthy eating and diabetes education. The program also will include recipe selection workshops, nutrition-related activities and a field trip to one of the supplier farms.

"Research shows that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can prevent obesity and its related diseases, which disproportionally affect low-income and minority populations," said Sharon Dalton, Vice President of the Aetna Foundation, who manages the Foundation's regional grant-making program. "By combining access to fresh, local produce with crucial nutrition education, The Fortune Society's program can have a positive impact on people's long-term health and well-being."

About The Fortune Society

For more than forty years, The Fortune Society has been developing model programs that help former prisoners successfully re-enter their communities. The Fortune Society offers a holistic and integrated "one-stop-shopping" model of service provision. Among the services offered are outpatient substance abuse treatment, alternatives to incarceration, HIV/AIDS services, career development and job retention, education, family services, drop in services and supportive housing as well as ongoing access to aftercare. For more information, visit

About the Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET). Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed $413 million in grants and sponsorships, including $19.2 million in 2011. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered more than 2.6 million hours since 2003. Aetna's current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the U.S.; promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care; and advancing integrated health care. For more information, visit

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For The Aetna Foundation, Inc.
Marnie Goodman, 860-273-2314
Linden, Alschuler & Kaplan, PR
Abby Ross, 212-329-1404

KEYWORDS: United States North America New York


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