The AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation’s Connections for Cardiovascular HealthSM program today announced a grant of $197,772 to Sustainable Food Center in support of the CultivatingHealthy Communities program. This is the third consecutive year in which Sustainable Food Center has received a grant from the Foundation, totaling $550,337.
The Cultivating Healthy Communities program promotes cardiovascular health, sustainable foods, healthy nutrition and the prevention of obesity in children and families living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. These residents lack access to affordable, healthy foods and nutrition literacy. So how does this program work on a grassroots, personal level?
Sustainable Food Center engages with parents, staff and community members at partner elementary schools to facilitate the formation of wellness teams that participate in health and wellness activities. Wellness teams reach out to SFC resources and programs such as healthy cooking classes or school garden trainings. Leaders on the wellness team organize regular meetings and activities and engage the school community in health and wellness issues. Humberto Jaimes, a parent at Overton Elementary and wellness team leader, shares his story:
"I got involved in Sustainable Food Center programs because my wife decided to go to the SFC School Garden Leadership Training last Spring at Overton Elementary, and she couldn’t come on one of the days, so she told me, 'You have to go.' That’s how I got here. That’s how I got involved in all of this. I have really participated by inviting people and involving others. I like to work with people and know what it is that people want so that I can help them and see if there are ways to change things.
I wanted to get involved in the wellness team because, well, the name says it all. It’s for the wellness of people. Aside from the fact that I am learning something new, I’m learning how to help people and how to let them know what we can do to be well. It’s an interesting topic. Working with people has helped me to learn more about people in general, and this is what motivated me to get involved. Although I can’t fully find a way to express it, I want to continue working on this so that I can feel like I did something.
Last fall, the wellness team helped organize The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre® 6-week series class. Before knowing about The Happy Kitchen, I had attended a nutrition training, so I had an idea about nutrition, more or less, but The Happy Kitchen is something different; the cookbook, all of it, really gave me an idea of how to cook healthier. It taught me how to use less sugar and fat in the food I prepare at home for my family. For me, this was a good experience. What really helped was learning to look at the amount of sugar in soda. I decided not to drink soda anymore.
I have made some personal changes for my heart health as well. For one, I decided to exercise more. Before I joined the wellness team, I went to the doctor and he told me I had high cholesterol and that I needed to exercise, so then I realized that I’m not the only one who might have a problem; there are a lot of people who need motivation to exercise, and not exercising can affect your cholesterol.
In my own family, my daughter was a little overweight and now she’s lost weight because of the changes we made at home; we don’t drink sodas, sugary juice, or a lot of bread – and if it is bread, it has to be whole wheat. Every time we go to the supermarket, we try to read the nutrition label and check the amount of sugar each product has, so there have been a lot of family changes, as well as personal ones. It’s helped me to be more responsible than I was before.
Being involved with SFC has helped me to communicate with people that I don’t know. This is all new, and I feel like I still haven’t learned all that I would like to learn, but I know that I just need to keep learning more."