We can all agree that eating healthy is an integral part of living a long healthy life. The two most important aspects in assuring communities eat healthy, nutritious food are accessibility and education. Assuring healthy nutritious food is accessible to communities in South Central Los Angeles is an issue National Health Foundation (NHF) has been tackling for some time through our Health Academy program with high school youth. However, through the Champions for Change Healthy Communities Initiative grant we received the chance to tackle the other important issue, education. This spring NHF began its first round of community-based nutrition classes. While usually we focus on youth engagement to improve the community’s health, the Champions for Change Initiative gave us the opportunity to expand our efforts to our youths’ families. By partnering with local schools and their parent centers, we delivered a series of SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education) nutrition classes at four South Central schools to more than 45 parents. Taught in Spanish, the nutrition classes engaged SNAP eligible parents in learning how to eat a balanced diet, shop for healthy food on a budget, read nutrition labels, and understand the benefits of physical activity.
Engaging parents proved to be a worthy cause as every class had core parent groups that attended every session. They would often ask insightful questions and share tips that helped them achieve healthy changes. To commemorate the parents’ dedication each class series ended with a celebration potluck where parents were awarded certificates. During the celebrations parents showcased their new knowledge by bringing healthy meals to share with their peers. Many brought healthy variations of their cultural food, such as pozole with chicken instead of pork, or lasagna with vegetables instead of meat. Parents also shared the healthy lifestyle changes they made since the nutrition series began. “I now take longer to shop at grocery stores because I’m reading all of the nutrition labels, but I’m happy to because I know I’m making better decisions,” a mother who participated at Synergy Quantum Academy High School shared. The parents’ growth, development, and commitment to their and their family’s health was rewarding for everyone and will continue to impact the health of this community.