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Did you know that February is American Heart Month?

The American Heart Association reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.

However, there is good news! Leading a healthy lifestyle can help prevent heart disease. So here at Catholic Charities, we are helping our clients learn nutritious and delicious recipes to aid their healthy lifestyles.

Our recent recipe tasting at our St. Lucy Project’s Loaves and Fishes pantry in Front Royal was a great success. St. Lucy staff member Kenna Cuomo (a nurse of 38 years with a background in nutrition and public health) cooked Harvest Rice Meal Packs for clients at the pantry.

SLP meal tasting - 01.14.2016

Though rice is familiar worldwide, the inclusion of “fortified rice and soy protein” in the description of this recipe can scare some away. The textured soy, which doesn’t affect the taste, is a high-quality source of protein, an aspect of meals that keeps you feeling full and is also critical for children’s growth and physical development.

Kenna’s cooking debunked any myths that this meal wouldn’t taste delicious with just a few additions. She used low-sodium broth and beans, along with onions and celery to add flavor to the meal.

It was taste-tester approved! Clients sang praises of the nutritious and delicious recipe…

“Wow I really like it!”

”My family will enjoy this!”

”Where is this in the pantry?”

“This is delicious, I’m surprised!”

“This will make a great meal!”

All of the ingredients were on hand for the clients to take home. In fact, the pantry had to be restocked with another supply of the Harvest Meal Packs because so many taste testers took the meal home.

Our goal was to help educate the pantry families on the great taste and balanced nutrition of the meal packs, and to illustrate that adding a few simple ingredients can turn the meal from average to “Wow I really like this.”

Harvest meal pack recipe

Since the Harvest Rice Meal Pack was such a success, now our St. Lucy Project pantries are handing out heart healthy chicken soup recipes. We’re also planning a nutrition and health fair at the pantry to help families learn about shopping for healthy foods on a budget, managing portions and salt intake, and getting sufficient exercise — just to name a few!


Can you help our St. Lucy Project’s Healthy Eating Initiative? You can donate healthy foods to our St. Lucy pantries in Alexandria, Front Royal or Leesburg; our distribution warehouse in Manassas; or any of our St. Lucy food drives at parishes across the diocese. If you can’t drop off food, your financial support of the St. Lucy Project will help us by food for pennies on the dollar.

You can also join us by volunteering at our pantries, presenting health seminars or recipe tastings, even by offering health services. For more information, visit our volunteer website or email Sally O’Dwyer at