Spirit of St. Louis – The Fit and Food Connection

If you don't eat right and you're not exercising, you may need the Fit and Food Connection. This volunteer-based organization changes lives. Participants learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle on a budget.

“Our mission is to empower those in need with healthy living resources,” says Joy Millner, co-director for the Fit and Food Connection.

Millner’s Co-Director Gabrielle Cole runs the Food Assistance Program.

"A lot of the people that we get calls from to receive food, are low income and are in areas where there are food deserts," says Cole. She’s describing the void that’s created by the absence of grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods.

Cole and Millner co-founded the organization in 2014. It has steadily grown with support from generous donors and compassionate volunteers. Every Sunday, 15 to 20 families know they are going to get healthy non-perishables, fresh produce, and healthy prepackaged meals delivered to their homes. Sixty-year-old Stephanie Pendleton appreciates the weekly delivery.

“They made it possible for me to get organic food. Then they began to teach me how to eat. I learned more about food combinations and how to read labels,” says Pendelton.

In addition to a community garden, the Fit and Food Connection offers group nutrition workshops and group fitness. However, in some situations, one on one is a better fit.

“We have nutritionists, personal trainers, yoga instructors, you name it, that go into people's homes and work with them individually. It is about an $800 value. We have three grocery shopping sessions and three food prep sessions. It is very one on one,” Millner says.

Group fitness works best for Tawaana Gandy and her husband, Ernest Gandy.

“Everybody is very encouraging. And it really helps that you`re working out with a group of people. When you're working with that group it motivates you to come every week," says Tawaana Gandy.

"It's helping my cholesterol. It has come down. My blood pressure has come down,” Ernest says.

“Once they get a hold of our program and they`ve been in it six months to a year, they see tremendous results. They come off their medicine.” Cole says.

Retiree Sam Grunbaum never misses the weekly fitness class.

"I've been a diabetic since I was 37 years old. And exercise has been the strongest medicine that I take," Grunbaum says.

Compassionate care is always the best response for health concerns. The Fit and Food Connection will host its monthly Beyond The Plate nutrition workshop on March 28.