The Fit and Food Connection now has a permanent location in north St. Louis County to offer food and exercise options for low-income individuals and families.
The non-profit organization is partnering with Believers Temple, a church in the Castle Point area. The partnership will use the building’s fitness center and kitchen to teach members healthy eating habits and preparation, workout routines and to offer healthy food options.
“We are basically trying to be a health resource in these communities that don’t have food stores, they don’t have healthy food, they don’t have resources that are for free that come into their homes and do physical nutrition and fitness with them,” said Gabrielle Cole, co-director of the Fit and Food Connection.
Cole and co-director Joy Millner, began the organization in 2013. There was a need to create the organization to change the lifestyles of residents, Cole said. Cole and Millner noticed that many low-income and elderly community members did not have affordable healthy food options. They started working within schools and housing centers throughout the area to store and deliver healthy options.
“We work out of a lot of donated spaces from the Jennings School District, Beyond Housing and the St. Vincent’s Community Center,” said Cole. “We get to bring all of our programs under one roof and still be flexible and go out into the community.”
The new location at Believers Temple will feature a food pantry featuring locally-sourced foods from both rural and urban farmers. Personal trainers will also provide lessons at the church’s fitness center.
“We really handle primarily where the most need is and that’s north county and north city,” said John Meyer, senior fitness specialist for the Fit and Food Connection. “Our clients can’t afford to belong to a health club, much less hire a trainer.”
Meyer said working on fitness is especially important among low-income people because their physical and emotional health often has suffered. He teaches fitness lessons in housing centers and in homes through the Fit and Food Connection. Clients are welcome, regardless of medical conditions.
“They come with all situations; some are diabetic, some have in-pinned shoulders, one of the ladies here has severe neuropathy,” Meyer said, “Rather than fixate on that, I try to work around it.”
Families and individuals who want assistance can request service by calling the Fit and Food Connection phone number or accessing the website, Cole said. The organization also teaches families how to prepare and grow their own food in their community. Several classes are taught out of their community garden, Project Sunflower, in north St. Louis.
“As long as they want to get healthy and they want to make a commitment to go in a healthier lifestyle, we’re all for it,” Cole said. “All of our programs are free. We don’t charge, if you fit in those criteria.”
The Fit and Food Connection is open every Sunday afternoon for the Food Assistance program at Believers Temple.
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