Together we thrive. HCS Family Services recently adopted this simple, powerful statement as a tagline for the 76-year-old non-profit.
This month, as we all enjoy the bounty of the summer harvest, HCS has teamed up with Whole Foods Market Hinsdale (already a huge supporter) and one of the crown jewel events presented by the Hinsdale Chamber of Commerce, the Hinsdale Farmers Market, to help families thrive through fresh produce.
On Monday, August 19, when you arrive at the Farmers Market with thoughts of school lunches and snacks, plus planning for late summer entertaining, make sure your first stop is at the Whole Foods Market/HCS Family Services table. Farmers Market shoppers who make a $10 donation will receive a Whole Foods Better Bag. While browsing the fruits and flowers, fresh vegetables and eggs, look for signs denoting the participating vendors. These purveyors will fill the bag with fresh produce—these generous folks have already pledged to fill 50 bags.
Research suggests that eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day is one of the most important things a person can do for their health. Health researchers have also shown that the many essential nutrients in fresh produce may protect us from cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. A healthful diet can give you more energy and even reduce the signs of aging.
It’s a mantra our community has taken to heart, and we strive to eat our veggies and do our best to see that the little ones develop a love of eating the rainbow. The food pantry at HCS Family Services also takes this research and the recommendations that come with it very seriously. Set up as a “client choice” model, it is just like a grocery store and is very much geared toward healthy choices. HCS strives to always offer produce, protein, and dairy along with shelf-stable items. The organization tries to educate both clients and supporters of the pantry. As an example, condensed soup is not an ideal donation because it is so high in sodium.
“We’re all about empowering people. They can make choices and provide for their family in a way that suits that family’s needs,” says Debbie Baker, director of development for HCS Family Services.
“We make it priority to provide fresh, nutritious foods, and we’re able to provide for special needs and special clients,” says Debbie. She attributes this ability to generous support from the community and from sponsorships, especially that of Whole Foods Market Hinsdale.
Oftentimes, support from the two is intertwined. In late 2010, shoppers donated more than $31,000 at the registers while shopping at Whole Foods Market Hinsdale. This money went directly to the food pantry at HCS and helped make the holidays happier for many area families. “It was our customers. They’re just so generous,” says Anne Vassal, Whole Foods Market Hinsdale’s marketing and community relations specialist. There are plans for a similar program this coming holiday season. Giving in general and giving to food pantries in particular has a tendency to drop between April and August.
This event, with its mid-August timing, is wonderful for several reasons. It takes advantage of the very best of the summer harvest, when fields and gardens are overflowing with nutritious vegetables. It comes at a time when the pantry may be a little less stocked than in the winter months. And it will help buy more food—all financial donations from the day will be used to purchase food for the pantry. It reinforces the community nature of HCS Family Services and the spirit of our area. As we’re shopping for the back-to-school rush, we are committed to thinking of others. “Let’s do it together,” says Debbie. Because that’s how we thrive.
The Hinsdale Farmers Market is Mondays through October 14 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Purchase a Whole Foods Better Bag for $10 on Monday, August 19 at the Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and vendors will fill it with fresh produce. To learn more about HCS Family Services, visit hcsfamilyservices.org.
-Michelle Crowe // Photography by Joel Lerner