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Texas Town Uses Free School Dinner to Energize Student Minds, Bodies


school dinners robstown texas

Tired. Unhappy. Unenergetic. Students were showing these emotions over the school day and into afterschool activities in Robstown ISD, a 97% Latino school district in this small gulf coast town in South Texas. Superintendent Maria Vidaurri wanted to find out why. Turns out, they were hungry. "Students needing to stay [after school for tutoring, sports, events] were tired, frustrated, and energy levels low," Vidaurri said. "The last time they ate was at lunch, which is usually at 10:15 a.m. to 12 p.m." Vidaurri wanted to give these students the energy they needed for the school day and after school. She also wanted to give support to local Latino families who often struggle to put food on the table. She also wanted to encourage school attendance, as two of every three ...

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At-Risk Residents Get a Cooking Class You Can Take Home for Dinner



Noemi Villarreal sees Latinos in San Antonio struggle with disease, and wants to help. That’s why she has helped launch family support connectors, and also developed farmers markets in the Eastside, a heavily Latino section of the city. The farmers markets did not work. How could Villarreal and neighborhood leaders still bring cooking and nutrition education to families to help prevent disease? Thinking outside the box, they created a series of classes that include a chef demonstration—and take-home bags so families can replicate nutritious food recipes at home. Encouraging Healthy Eating for Latinos San Antonio’s Eastside Promise Neighborhood (EPN) is home to 18,000 residents (67.5% Latino) who face health issues due to inequities in income, education, access to health ...

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Latina Nutrition Leader Starts a School Food Pantry to Feed Hungry Kids in San Antonio


jenny arredondo

Jenny Arredondo knows some San Antonio students leave school and don't eat again until they return to school the next day. Many students live in poverty. Some don't know where their next meal is coming from. Arredondo wanted to help. Arredondo, senior executive director of child nutrition at San Antonio ISD, found a solution in Texas State Rep. Diego Bernal's new state law. Schools now can start "school food pantries" to accept and store donated food and surplus food from the cafeteria, and distribute that leftover food to hungry students. How could she start school food pantries at San Antonio ISD? Food Insecurity at San Antonio ISD U.S. Latino children and families often struggle with poverty and live in poverty stricken neighborhoods with abundant fast food but little ...

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Texas Policymaker Enables School Food Pantries to Save Leftover Food for Kids


latino kids in a school food lunch line

Texas State Rep. Diego Bernal had a simple question for school leaders in San Antonio. What's your biggest concern for students? Wasted food, they told him. In fact, Bernal toured schools in San Antonio (63.2% Latino) and learned leaders were frustrated with how much food is trashed and not given to students who live in poverty and have no food at home. Even in more affluent school districts, students were going hungry while schools threw away, “untouched, unopened, ripe, perfectily edible food,” Bernal told the San Antonio Express-News. Bernal was heartbroken. He wanted to do something. But how could he bring leftover school food to the mouths of hungry students? Children Going Hungry Bernal saw two types of hungry students in San Antonio. Students who are ...

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Sweat Equity: How to Get Fit and Volunteer at the Same Time!


work out help out collage

Paul Rezaei loved being physically active as a kid, so much so that he became a personal trainer and has helped people get fit in San Antonio for 10 years. One day, as Rezaei watched people spend energy to jog on treadmills and move weights, he had a revelation: "Can't we do this [work out] while doing something positive for the community?" Rezaei wanted to host events where people could work out—and at the same time serve as volunteers to create gardens, help at-risk families, and improve the community. How could he make it happen? Physical Inactivity and the Need for Healthy Spaces Rezaei, a trainer at Life Time Fitness, sees many people in San Antonio (67% Latino) struggle to get the recommended daily physical activity. More than half of adults here are obese or ...

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Young Latina Innovator to Launch ‘MyFunFood’ App



Isabella Jimenez of San Antonio isn't a normal 13-year-old. When Isabella watched in shock as her classmates ate only potato chips or candy bars for lunch day after day, she didn't just shrug it off. She gave herself a call to action. "Why not create a kid-friendly app with recipes and health tips for [students and] the whole community?" Isabella asked. Isabella's First Step In many Latino communities, like San Antonio (68% Latino), students are more exposed to unhealthy food in and out of school, according to a Salud America! research review. Isabella saw this in her school, Lee High School in North East ISD in San Antonio. "It's mainly concerning, because [chips and candy bars are] what they're putting into their diet,” Isabella said. Isabella wanted to find a ...

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College Shows How to ‘Cultivate Health’ in a Diverse Neighborhood


Cultivate Health Denver Regis University

Dr. Janet Houser wants her Regis University in Denver to "make a difference in the world" for better health. So they've started in their own backyard. Houser, the university's provost, is uniting community groups and developers to "cultivate health" in the neighborhood around the university—creating affordable housing and surrounding it with a health clinic, health education, and access to active spaces and healthy food. In just a few years, they want to give local families a place where they can equitably live, learn, work, and play. Is such a big transformation really possible? A Rising Latino Population Denver is one of the largest, fastest-growing cities in the country. It also has a rising Latino population, from 23% in 1990 to 31% in 2014. This changing ...

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Health Equity, a Bike Full of Groceries at a Time



Ricardo Rocha believes anyone can be a hero and improve local healthy food access. Even someone like him. Someone who grew up in a poor family that toiled to put food on the table in Mexico. Someone who immigrated to the deserts of New Mexico, and eventually Denver (31% Latino). Someone who was a struggling, undocumented high-school student. “I was not doing very well in high school. Someone there told me about the College Assistance Migrant Program," Rocha said. "That helped get me into [Metropolitan State University of Denver],” Rocha said. “I learned a lot about what it really meant to belong somewhere." Rocha wanted to do more than "belong somewhere." He wanted to make that somewhere better. So, when he noticed many people trying and failing to find healthy food ...

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Shirley Gonzales and Her Amazing Push to Revitalize Housing in Historic San Antonio



When San Antonio native Shirley Gonzales earned a business degree years ago, she immediately went to work to find new locations to expand her family's local business, Bill's Pawn Shop. Gonzales studied the city's historic, largely Latino Westside. She loved the area so much, she moved her family there. But she found it hard to navigate the city’s complex procedures for opening and expanding businesses—an experience that eventually led her to run for, and earn, a seat on the San Antonio City Council. Now Gonzales is pushing to revitalize business on the Westside and helping residents find better, more affordable homes to live in, too. “There is so much about this community that is good,” Gonzales said. “It has great history, great people living here, strong ...

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