Connecting our Neighbor to Hope and Help

BEAM prides itself on identifying the needs of our clients and connecting them with proper resources. A few months ago a client was referred to BEAM by our partners at the Sulzbacher Beaches Clinic. John Doe has advanced kidney disease, coupled with mobility issues and no method of transportation. While the care this client requires was outside of the scope of what BEAM’s Paths to Wellness Program offers, Rachel was able to connect a registered dietitian volunteer (who has this specific area of expertise) with John and she agreed to visit him twice a month. Volunteer Terry, alongside a Sulzbacher community health worker, now bring John groceries from the BEAM food pantry, assist with routine medical check-ups and provide intensive behavioral counseling. Although John has a long road to recovery, he is grateful for his individualized support as he works hard to overcome this disease.

Paths to Nutrition Program Update (Summer 2019)

Did you know BEAM has a full-time registered dietitian on staff ?
Fully funded by the USDA, BEAM’s Paths to Wellness Program is designed to help low income residents make important dietary changes that will lead to healthier lives. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Rachel McCandless, MSH,RDN works with clients one-on-one and also educates the public about nutrition through various community outreach initiatives.

Here’s what she has been up to lately:

• In partnership with the City of Atlantic Beach and Dig Local Network, Rachel is teaching 40 children once a week about healthy foods through a kid’s summer camp running through mid-August at the Gail Baker Community Center in Atlantic Beach.

• Rachel also regularly participates in the Atlantic Beach Mid-Week Farmers’ Market at Bull Park on Wednesdays from 3 - 6 pm. Dig Local Network provides 2-for-1 SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps) for people who spend the vouchers on produce. Rachel has recently begun a SNAP food basket demo highlighting local vendor products and ways to maximize the 2-for-1 incentive benefit, recipe cards included.

• BEAM’s registered dietitian nutritionist attends the Beaches Green Market in Neptune Beach on Saturdays from 2 – 5 pm. Choosing items from vendors such as Alvarez Farms, Rachel creates a dish on-the-spot and offers a complimentary food tasting to attendees.

• In addition, Rachel recently launched a Neighbors for Nutrition program twice a month in which her successful medical clients “shop” with new clients to serve as nutrition ambassadors. This allows them to apply what they have learned from their one-on-one sessions and provide intentional support for other clients.

This year alone, the Paths to Wellness Program will educate more than 2,000 people about nutrition through local community outreach events.

Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month

A message from BEAM's registered dietitian during Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month:

Contrary to marketing and media reports, there is no “miracle” food or supplement that will prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as we get older.
The one thing that HAS been shown to help prevent cognitive decline is a varied diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables along with fish and seafood while limiting excess sugars and solid fats like those found in red meat.

The antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids from these foods are shown to have a protective effect on the brain, while excess sugars and saturated fats contribute to the blood vessel damage that leads to brain issues as we age.

And don’t forget the exercise. The latest science on physical activity and the brain points to the fact that exercise not only keeps the brain from declining but actually helps to grow new connections in the brain, improving our cognitive function.…/research_progress/prevention

If you are the caregiver for someone who is experiencing Alzheimer’s or cognitive decline, you know that eating may become a challenge due to poor appetite, medications, altered senses of taste and smell, difficulty using utensils, mood changes and difficulty chewing or swallowing, among other issues.
People living with dementia do not need a special diet, but well-balanced meals that contribute to overall health are extremely important. For tips on how to choose foods and how to increase acceptance and appetite for these foods, see:…/caregiving/daily-care/food-eating…/9597-eating-and-nutritiona…

Paths to Wellness Nutrition Program (2018 Update)

2018 was the first full year of implementation of BEAM’s United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Food Project grant awarded back in 2017. This federal grant fully funds our Paths to Wellness program, which focuses in three main areas: prescriptive guidance, preventative education and direct community wellness outreach.

Successes from the last year include:

  • More than 250 hours of direct one-on-one counseling completed for patients who were referred to BEAM from Baptist Beaches and Beaches Sulzbacher Center for the treatment of diabetes

  • More than 25,000 pounds of food, or 20,833 meals, were distributed each month (including produce, pantry staples, quality proteins and whole grains) from our Jax Beach and Mayport food pantries

  • 168 pantry visits occurred in which a client at risk of diabetes or hypertension shopped for food and received advice from a nutrition specialist or registered dietitian

  • More than 200 cooking demonstrations were conducted

Mobile Food Pantries Meet Client Needs

When the food bank was first built in 2016 behind our 7north thrift store, it was created to serve as the only beaches food distribution center responsible for the collection, inspection and organization of food from our local grocery store partners. Once established, we were able to receive a steadily flow of goods for our two client-choice food pantries as well as provide food to neighboring agencies in a “business to business” approach.

With a small food bank staff of two and 44 weekly volunteers, we also added another our approach to meet the needs of our food insecure beaches community: mobile food pantry operations.

A mobile food pantry is a food distribution strategy that removes the barriers preventing access to under-served areas. It allows for the delivery of rescued food and grocery products including protein, produce and other goods to meet the needs of the public right where they are in a “business to consumer” approach.

Our current mobile food pantry sites include:

  • An average of 2,800 pounds of food to Mayport Market, a food distribution site in the cafeteria of Mayport Elementary School every Duval County Public School early release day. Our successful Mayport Market initiative is in partnership with Palms Presbyterian Church.

  • An average of 6,000 pounds a month of meat, bread and other items to St John the Baptist Catholic Church for their mobile food pantry on the third Saturday of every month. This poundage is in addition to the food we provide to them to help stock their food pantry.

  • An average of 1,800 pounds every other week to Pablo Hamlet, one of Jacksonville Beach’s subsidized senior living facilities. This gives us an opportunity to provide food to seniors who live independently, but who are not able to visit one of our brick and mortar pantries.

  • An average of 1,800 pounds every week to Pablo Towers, which has a similar demographic of Pablo Hamlet. These two senior living facility mobile food pantries are in partnership with Elderly Housing Management Corporation.

We would not be able to do this important work without the organizations behind the scenes that provide these food and grocery donations. Our admirable partners include Feeding Northeast Florida, Lucky’s Market, NS Mayport Commissary, Publix Super Markets, PVS Studios, Target, Walmart, and Winn-Dixie.

While we continue to operate our Jacksonville Beach and Mayport food pantries (including expanded weeknight and weekend hours), our mobile food pantry outreach has given us an opportunity to meet a different demographic—those who face transportation and/or time constraint hardships while providing for themselves and their families on a limited income.

Last year alone, we distributed more than 114,000 pounds of food through our mobile food pantry operations.

New "Healthy Choice" Food Pantries

BEAM’s recent partnership with the Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida has brought some changes to our Mayport and Jax Beach food pantries!

With the help of one of our UNF nursing students, Rebecca Cheney, and as a part of our “client choice” initiative, we have incorporated a “Healthy Choice” option throughout the pantries that helps clients easily shop for healthier options.

Statistics show that one in three food pantry client households include an individual with diabetes and 58 percent include an individual with high blood pressure. Our new “Healthy Choice” alternatives address these statistics by incorporating labeled shelves with low sodium, low sugar, whole grain or whole wheat foods into each client’s shopping experience.

The “Healthy Choice” categories chosen for our food pantries are approved by our full-time Registered Dietitian and are proven to have health benefits. Our student partner was the winner of an Osprey Community Engagement Medallion for demonstrating exemplary commitment to the community through her project! Congratulations Rebecca and thank you for making it easy for our clients to choose healthier options at our “client choice” food pantries!


Rebecca Cheney receiving a medallion for her Healthy Choice food labeling system project at the University of North Florida's Osprey Community Engagement Medallion Awards Ceremony.

Rebecca Cheney receiving a medallion for her Healthy Choice food labeling system project at the University of North Florida's Osprey Community Engagement Medallion Awards Ceremony.

Grace Garden Celebrates its 5th Birthday!

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This April marks five years since the inception of our beloved Grace Garden. What was once an overgrown and untamed backyard to BEAM’s headquarters, is now a serene and peaceful neighborhood gem providing thousands of pounds of produce to families in the beaches area.

Grace Garden exists for three main reasons:
• To provide fresh produce to BEAM’s two client-choice food pantries (Jacksonville Beach and Mayport)
• To create a peaceful place for clients to visit
• To add beauty to the neighborhood
Since 2013, Grace Garden has produce more than 27,500 pounds of produce for hardworking families in our beaches community.

Getting the garden to where it is today was no easy task. It took vision, persistence and lots of community help. Integral partners from idea to execution include the City of Jacksonville Beach, UF/IFAS Duval County Extension Office, Home Depot-Jacksonville Beach, landscape architect Kelly Elmore and numerous skilled volunteers and financial supporters.

Food Pantry and Garden Manager Mary Ellen Waugh shared, “I am most proud that it is a place of its own. The garden is something unique that this community didn’t have before, and our neighborhood and our clients are better because of it.”

People from all walks of life have touched Grace Garden and been affected by its beauty and character. We welcome our regular weekly volunteers (including two retired master gardeners), church life groups and their children, community and corporate groups. All have had a hand in creating a lively and sustainable garden year-round.


Aside from the nutritious food that fills our pantries, the garden also provides a learning opportunity for clients and their children. BEAM’s Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Rachel McCandless uses produce from the garden to prepare food tastings and cooking demonstrations for clients. She also works closely with those who have been diagnosed with Diabetes or Hypertension to teach them how to incorporate positive lifestyle changes in an effort to manage and relief their chronic disease symptoms.

Lastly, Grace Garden serves as a peaceful space for clients and beaches residents alike to relax, decompress and enjoy nature’s beauty.

How can you help? Please consider sponsoring a Grace Garden raised bed for $250 a year or aeroponic tower for $350 a year, which provides BEAM’s pantries four seasons of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a perfect gift for Mother’s Day!

Paths to Wellness Program


Beginning in 2014, we incorporated a full-time Registered Dietitian on staff to work alongside our clients and to provide nutrition education to the community. The Paths to Wellness program has three main goals: to provide prescriptive guidance to those with nutrition-related diseases (such as diabetes or hypertension), to provide preventative education to those who are at risk and to facilitate direct outreach to the community through mobile food pantries and community events.

2017 highlights include:

  • Biweekly one on one case management support with 61 individual clients and our Registered Dietitian to learn how to incorporate dietary changes resulting in better health outcomes.
  • A new partnership with the YMCA to spearhead a yearlong Diabetes Prevention Program.
  • Food tastings and nutrition education at BEAM’s new mobile food pantry at Mayport Elementary School each early release school day.
  • 20 University of North Florida Department of Nutrition and Dietetics students worked closely with our dietitian to provide evidence-based education to food pantry clients.

Food Assistance Program


Our efforts to feed the hungry are ever expanding, and one way we are providing nutrition to our neighbors in need is through our Beaches Community Food Bank. Established in 2016 in partnership with Feeding Northeast Florida, the food bank functions as a grocery recovery distribution center located behind our 7north thrift store in Jacksonville Beach. It is the only one of its kind within a 30 miles radius of our beaches area, which is significant for food recovery with a very short shelf life.

Last year alone we collected, inspected and redistributed more than 749,000 pounds of food from grocery stores and food drives to our clients’ dinner tables. Over 400,000 pounds alone went to our two client-choice food pantries, which served more than 2,600 beaches residents last year. The remaining went to agencies such as Alimancani Elementary School’s PTA weekend backpack program, senior housing sites, the Rhoda Martin Headstart program and numerous mobile food pantry sites.

In 2017 we introduced “mobile pantry sites” to get food into the hands of individuals who need it most. This approach requires staff and volunteers to bundle, transport and drop off pallets of food at partner locations on a regular basis, including Pablo Towers, Pablo Hamlet, St John the Baptist Catholic Church and Mayport Elementary School.

Last August, media outlet filmed BEAM staff and our 7,200 square foot Grace Garden for a video featuring our unique “garden to food pantry” approach. They highlighted our ability to grow and to provide healthy food to people on a limited income, which both gratified and reinforced the important work we are doing to assist our food insecure neighbors.

New Year’s Resolutions



From the Dietitian:

It’s January again, where did the time go?  After all of the excesses of the holidays, a new calendar is like a clean slate, a “do-over” to fix our previous mistakes.  About half of us make New Year’s resolutions; we want to lose weight, quit smoking, spend less or get fit or organized in the new year.  One thing these goals have in common is that they are all related to our habits, the small actions we repeatedly do or don’t do that add up over time.  For example, one can of soda is only 150 calories, you probably don’t even think about it.  But, one soda every day can add up to an extra 15 pounds of body fat at the end of the year. 

Changing your habits seems easy on January 1st, but by February or March, not so much.  Life gets in the way and we abandon our goals for our old familiar patterns.  It doesn’t have to be that way, however.  With a little patience and planning, you can be your own success story.

Here are six tips to help you to succeed with whatever your New Year’s resolution:

  1. Make a specific plan for the journey, not just the destination. How can you get to where you want to go if you don’t have a map of how to get there?  “I’m going to go to the gym 4 hours every week” is a lot easier to achieve than “I’m going to get fit”.
  2. Relying on willpower alone doesn’t work; stress or bad days will happen and you’ll be tempted to resume your comforting old habits.  Keep a list of actions that you enjoy doing to replace the one you used to perform automatically.  For example, when your boss stresses you out, walk around the building or call a friend rather than go out for a cigarette or to the break room for a donut.
  3. Don’t try to do everything at once.  Break it down into small, achievable chunks to keep from getting discouraged.  “I’m going to clean and organize everything” seems overwhelming compared to “This week, I’m going to clean out the bedroom closet”.
  4. Trying to be perfect 100% of the time is one of the main reasons we abandon our goals come February.  Instead, try the 80/20 approach.  If you’ve made good choices 80% of the time, pat yourself on the back, then work to gradually increase to 90%, then more.   Knowing you have a treat planned for a bedtime snack can help you to avoid the cake on the buffet line at lunch.
  5. Keep your motivation going by making a list of why you are changing your habits.  “I want to eat healthier so that my daughter won’t learn bad habits and have to struggle with her weight like I have.”  “I want to save money so that I can travel in the future.”  Keep this list handy to remind yourself often.
  6. Keep track of your small victories and reward yourself regularly.  Small rewards can have great effects: a hot bath after going to the gym, a pedicure for 5 pounds lost, or a new video game for not smoking for two weeks.  You’ll look forward to the prize when tempted to backslide.  Just remember, you only get the reward for doing the action!  If you don’t do it, you don’t get it!

Quotable Quotes

"Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time."  ~Mark Twain

We hope that these tips will take you a long way in your journey to become your own “after” picture and ditch the “before” picture for good.

Here’s to your success!

Time to Breakout the Grill

Labor day is approaching, and for us that means it is time to breakout the grill! Don't have any BBQ sauce at home? Try this recipe and make it at home! Use it on steaks, pork, salmon, chicken or anything else you throw on the grill.

Basic Barbeque Sauce            Yield: 3 Cups



Soy Sauce

Cider Vinegar

Mirin (Sweet Sake)


Sesame Oil

Worcestershire Sauce

Brown Sugar


Dijon Mustard

Hot Red Chilies, Dried, Seeds Removed

Chili Powder

Liquid Smoke

Fresh Ground Black Pepper


2 Cups

2/3 Cup

¼ Cup

¼ Cup

¼ Cup

2 Tablespoons

¼ Cup

¼ Cup (firmly packed)

2 Tablespoons

2 Tablespoons

2 each or to taste

1 Tablespoon

2 Teaspoons

½ Teaspoon



  1. Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce is dark, thick and rich, stirring frequently to keep from burning.
  4. Adjust sweetness, sourness and hot pepper to taste.

Side Dishes on the Grill

When we think of grilling, we think of meat- big Flintstone sized hunks of it.  But, veggies and fruits are great on the grill too!  In fact, if you balance out your plate with produce, your brontosaurus steak can fit right in with your health goals.  When grilling veggies, don’t forget the flavor!  Salad dressings make a great marinade or try a dry spice rub.  Almost any dried spice blend will do; try lemon pepper, Cajun spice or even a toss in curry paste.  Always turn frequently to get that smoky char without burning your dinner! Some ideas for great grilled sides:

  • Corn on the cob- place directly on the grill and rotate to get grill “stripes” down the length of the cob.  Serve with a sprinkle of chili powder and a squeeze of lime.
  • Potatoes or sweet potatoes- cut large ones in half then pierce with a fork all over, roll in oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place directly on the grill grate or wrap in foil and place in the coals.
  • Asparagus cooks well lain crosswise across the grill grates to keep from falling into the flame.
  • Vegetable skewers- fast and convenient; use similar sized items so that they cook evenly.  Whole mushroom, cherry tomato, yellow pepper and onion skewers go great with that steak!
  • For smaller vegetable pieces, foil packets are the way to go.  Just use a double layer of foil to keep them from bursting. 
  • Salad on the grill!  Grill romaine lettuce halves for 2-3 minutes or just until slightly wilted.  Serve with Caesar dressing and parmesan cheese or with blue cheese dressing and chopped bacon pieces.

Whatever you decide to grill, remember main reason why we BBQ—being outside in the fresh air with the company of good friends and family is the best seasoning that any meal could have!

Grilling, broiling, barbecuing - whatever you want to call it - is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach
— James Beard, 'Beard on Food' (1974)


The Chef and the Dietitian


The winter growing season has been prolific! The cold nights and sunny days have given us a bug and disease free growing season. We have had a steady crop of kale, collard greens, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, peas and lots of fragrant winter herbs.

Over the past few months we have been working on a new project, partnering with the City of Atlantic Beach, The Clinton Foundation Health Matters Initiative, Jacksonville University, and Atlantic Beach Urban Farms to bring a weekly farmers market to Mayport residents. Mayport has been identified as a “food desert” by the USDA; indicating a low-income area with limited access to healthy food due to the absence of grocery stores and limited access to transportation. The Atlantic Beach City Market opened February 17 and BEAM participated with a wonderful selection of Grace Garden produce available for sale. We are proud to be able to offer fresh, healthy food to our Mayport clients. In addition, shoppers who use SNAP or EBT will be able to double their benefits to purchase up to $20 of locally grown produce each week. We envision the new market, located at the southwest corner of Mayport Road and Dutton Island Road, as a gathering place for the entire community. Please come by and check it out!

With a new spring growing season approaching we are busy starting our tomato and pepper seeds in the greenhouse, as well as planting potatoes outside. Next we will start squash and cucumber followed by eggplant and okra. Remember, volunteering in Grace Garden is a great way to hone (or develop) your gardening skills. Please consider volunteering. You’ll learn a lot and have a great time!


BEAM has started a partnership with the First Coast YMCA to help
implement the yearlong CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program in our community. Participants meet weekly for lessons on healthy lifestyle behaviors, barriers to change and group support in facilitating that change. At each meeting, BEAM provides a healthy dinner and last week the clients got to harvest their own greens from the garden tower to make the salad for dinner.