Safe Haven Residents Begin Nutrition Workshops
Training and Tips Prepare Participants for a Healthy Transition to Independence 

WESTFIELD, MASS. – Residents of MHA’s Safe Haven program in Westfield are taking a series of Nutrition Workshops led by Stacy Garvey, a Licensed Dietician/Nutritionist with Wellpoint Health Solutions. These hands-on workshops in the Safe Haven kitchen will span eight meetings, every other week, through May 2020. Safe Haven offers transitional housing support to people served by the Department of Mental Health who are experiencing chronic homelessness, including those in recovery. 

“Addiction is hard on your physical health as well as your mental health,” said Samantha Gulsvig, Program Supervisor at Safe Haven. “Often the physical part of the process of recovery is hidden behind our wanting to help the mental health part, so we wanted to add a nutritional aspect to our program to help with physical effects of recovery. If someone has been using, over time this leads to serious nutritional deficiencies that can result in organ damage, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic ailments. Stacy Garvey came in and helped people focus on their overall wellbeing, putting good food practices into good use. We’re involving the whole house in holistic wellness in recovery, and good nutrition is a key part of that.”

“Good nutrition is healing,” said Garvey. “Depending on what you eat, food can promote disease or help prevent it. There are foods that can enhance your mood, foods that go well with exercise, foods that taste good and are good for you. Our program at Safe Haven is designed to teach a wellness concept. Our first session focused on basics, like what are healthy foods from each food group and what is a healthy portion. We talked about foods that can aid their recovery and foods that can give them more energy and prevent obesity and diabetes. Residents learned some budget friendly cooking ideas and smart eating out choices. Everyone prepared homemade trail mix with whole grain cereals, nuts, seeds and dried fruits, and bagged it to take with them. Future sessions will cover topics including breakfast, lunch, dinner, healthy snacks, food safety, healthy food storage, budgeting, and how to shop for food.” 

Garvey explained that residents are provided recipes at each workshop so they can build their own binder of food possibilities. They get help designing their own meal plan for up to five weeks, which they can rotate through to help them eat healthy moving forward. Residents also get a focused supermarket tour that helps them put all the learning about food into perspective. 

“People who transition from Safe Haven to their own place have limited income, so it’s important to help them learn how to make good food choices on a limited budget,” said Gulsvig. “That’s why we’re also working on budgeting with food. Good food doesn’t have to be expensive and the more someone learns about how diet affects the way they think and feel, the better their food habits can be. Learning some good cooking skills also helps people make things that are delicious, which is great incentive to cook. The people who took the first workshop are enthusiastic about taking all eight classes. Already they’re more confident about food. That’s important because planning and preparing good things to eat involves a set of skills that people overlook when they’re trying to survive. The opportunity to learn those skills in a supportive environment is a great way help people move forward in recovery.”

“The Safe Haven Nutrition Workshops are funded in part by a $2500 grant from the City of Westfield and a $500 grant from Health New England,” said Kimberley A. Lee, VP Resource Development & Branding for MHA. “We are thrilled to have such forward-thinking partners willing to invest in MHA’s innovative programming and the people we serve in our community. MHA’s goal is always to treat the whole person, and these Nutrition Workshops are making a difference in the lives of people who are fighting for their recovery.”