Mind-Body Medicine student creates “super-foods” based nutrition programs improving childrens’ health in San Diego: Ruthi Solari
Ruthi Solari is a master’s student in the College of Mind-Body Medicine at Saybrook University, and the creator of SuperFood Drive (www.superfooddrive.org), a 501(c) 3 non-profit located in San Diego, California. Ruthi found the inspiration to create SuperFood Drive while attending the Center for Mind Body Medicine’s Food as Medicine (FAM) conference in 2009. The inspiration for super foods, or nutrient dense foods, came from reading Steven Pratt’s book, “SuperFoods Rx.” Dr. Pratt’s book opened her eyes to the health benefits of specific nutrient dense super foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Ruthi’s goal is to improve the nutritional status of people that use food banks by providing ‘super foods.’ Upon returning home from the FAM conference, Ruthi taught herself how to start a non-profit. In June, 2009, SuperFood Drive was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
SuperFood Drive has been successful in helping to advance the nutrition of the underserved in San Diego food banks by improving the types of foods that are available. Achieving more nutritious food donations begins with educating donors about the types of food they donate to the food banks. Last year SuperKids for SuperFoods, a service-learning program was created. SuperKids uses a pier learning model to educate students in middle school and high school about the health benefits of nutrient-dense foods. The program also teaches kids to make the distinction between being overfed, and undernourished. Being overfed, yet under nourished may play a role in rising obesity rates. The service-learning program is a powerful tool to increase self-efficacy for children, and communities.
SuperFoods for SuperKids is the inspiration for Ruthi’s Master’s Project. Ruthi will look at how a SuperKids nutrition-based service-learning project affects the nutritional status of participating youth. Ruthi will develop educational materials, and evaluation tools to assess the impact of the model on the participating children.
As a result of her successful work developing in implementing SuperFoods and SuperKids in San Diego, Ruthi was recently invited to the World Nutrition Conference in Rio de Janeiro to present her program in the form of a poster, and a short oral presentation.
What started as a grassroots effort to provide healthy foods to the underserved in San Diego, has led Ruthi to her current job as the Nutrition Education Program Specialist for the County of San Diego’s Department of Health and Human Services. Her work includes nutrition education for CalFresh (food stamp) populations and community engagement in increasing the accessibility to healthy food in low-income neighborhoods.
Ruthi is hopeful that the impact of SuperFood Drive will soon spread beyond San Diego. In March 2012, in a partnership with the organization “Feeding America-San Diego,” SuperFood Drive launched the first "nutrition banking" model in the country. SuperFood Drive is working with both the large food banks and all the smaller food pantry partners to transform them into distribution mechanisms for getting healthy food and basic nutrition education to underserved communities. The plan is to evaluate this model in San Diego now, and then to present it to California Association of Food Banks and Feeding America National in the coming year for scalability on a state-wide and then national level.