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Parents Help Swap Sugary Drinks for Healthier Options in Schools



The nutritional quality of lunches is improving in schools in Fairfax, Va., which has a large Latino student population. But the news wasn’t all good. Parents saw that, despite healthier lunch improvements, sugary drinks remained stocked in vending machines. Sugary drinks consumption contributes to increased rates of obesity and diabetes, studies show. So several parents banded together and, with the support of a member of the local school board and students alike, made a change to remove sugary drinks and replace them with healthier options in vending machines at seven schools. EMERGENCE Awareness: The Fairfax School District serves around 184,000 students. In the district’s 25 high schools, Latinos make up 19% of the student body. JoAnne Hammermaster has two kids in the ...

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Brownsville Leaders Turn Tragedy into Garden of Hope



An old, abandoned plot of land sat empty near the site of a triple homicide involving children in Brownsville, Texas (91% Latino). Could such a tragic location be transformed into beacon of hope—and health? The answer was yes, thanks to Dr. Belinda Reininger and others. The Start of Healthy Changes in Brownsville A weekly farmers’ market launched in 2008 in Brownsville, Texas. Dr. Belinda Reininger, assistant professor at the UT School of Public Health and head of the Brownsville Farmers’ Market, did the necessary paperwork to turn the market into a non-profit entity called The Brownsville Wellness Coalition. The new coalition had a mission to promote both physical activity and healthy food choices in light of rising obesity. The coalition son learned from local ...

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Shared Use Agreement Transforms Schoolyard into ‘SPARK Park’



Community, school, and city officials worked together to develop a shared use agreement to use school grounds to create a community park at Sky Harbour Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas, with a playground, exercise equipment, trails, and an amphitheater that is open after school hours. The effort illustrates how city officials, a non-profit organization, a school district, a P.E. coach, students, parents, and members from the community can work together to bring important improvements to the physical environment that can increase local options for physical activity. Each of these stakeholders saw the need for more play space in the community and supported a shared use agreement to guarantee access to Sky Harbour’s recreational facilities on school grounds after school hours. From ...

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Grassroots group works with rural schools to open recreation spaces



MHP (formerly known as Migrant Health Promotion) and Alice Independent School District partner to create a shared use agreement to make school-owned recreational areas—gyms, playgrounds, parks, and walking trails—available to the public after school hours, adding a much-needed physical activity option in a largely Latino population, at high risk of obesity and related health complications. EMERGENCE Awareness: Robert De Leon, a former program director at MHP—an organization that has provided leadership in health promotion, program development, and advocacy for migrant farmworkers and their families and other isolated communities since 1983—was increasingly concerned about high obesity rates in South Texas. In 2011, MHP applied for a Texas Health Initiative’s Community ...

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Young Latino Starts Garden to Connect Neighbors, Boost Healthy Food



Caesar Valdillez loves where he lives—the Southtown neighborhood in San Antonio (63% Latino). He grew up in the neighborhood and even moved back after he finished college, hoping to meet like-minded environmentalists to improve the neighborhood and sustain it for many years to come. But he noticed Southtown lacked the healthy food options it needed to be a truly healthy community. “Our neighborhood does not have any reasonable grocery store in the area, especially with fresh produce and herbs,” he said. He decided to help. Southtown Lacks Healthy Options In 2010, on a routine neighborhood walk, Valdillez stumbled upon the South Presa Community Garden. It was largely neglected and overgrown. He was “immediately intrigued,” though, when he saw at least a ...

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Teamwork Brings Shared Use Agreements and New Park to Earlimart, Calif.



After years of trying to land a new park, residents of Earlimart, Calif., can now celebrate the success of a shared use agreement and soon-to-be-built 4-acre park. Residents living in the small rural community of Earlimart, Calif., lacked outdoor spaces for the physical activity they needed to develop and maintain healthy lifestyles and weights. The Earlimart School District’s superintendent responded to this need by trying an experiment. She had the custodial staff at one school leave the school gate open. Word got around that the school’s gate had been left open—soon the school’s field was filled with local residents. This experiment ultimately led to a change in the school district’s policy, which allows Tulare county residents from non-affiliated groups to use the school ...

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Student Helps Launch a Community Walking Program Using a School Track



Edison High School students, families and community members partner with school officials to open school’s new lighted track for a regular walking program. EMERGENCE Awareness: Toward the beginning of her sophomore year, Edison High School student Brianna Reynosa began to notice there had been some changes to her school’s lunch menu. “It started with the new lunch menu. When I noticed the changes in the menu, I asked [Edison Principal] Mr. [Charles] Munoz about it and he began to tell me about how obesity was a problem in the community, and how he wanted the students at Edison to be healthy,” Brianna said. Before, Brianna hadn’t really stopped to think about the consequences that come with making unhealthy lifestyle choices. She began to think about her ...

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Local Meat Market Gets Fresher, Inside and Out



Atop a hill in East Los Angeles, Ramirez Meat Market has spent three decades as a neighborhood fixture. However, the market hasn’t been a beacon of health. Celia Ramirez, who has owned the store for the last 10 years, runs it by herself following her husband’s death in an automobile accident. Now, with some community help, Ramirez transformed her meat market from a typical junk-food-filled corner store into a place that where the community can find nutritious food options and embrace a healthier lifestyle. EMERGENCE Awareness: East L.A. is an urban community that is 96% Latino and has high rates of obesity-related chronic diseases. Small corner stores and meat markets are abundant in the community, but sell mostly junk food and few fresh fruits and vegetables, and/or poorly ...

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Celebrating Fresh Veggies at Nuevo Leon Meat Market



Jalapenos, cilantro, garlic—“The Mexican culture cooks a lot of vegetables in meals and everything has to be hot,” said Sandra Gonzales. Sandra and her brother, Rudy Gonzales, made sure to stock those good-for-cooking-spicy-meals vegetables in the Nuevo Leon Meat Market in San Antonio’s predominantly Latino Westside, which Rudy has owned and operated for nearly a decade. But they had no other healthy choices—snacks like apples, bananas, or grapes—in an area that sorely lacks healthy food options. With a little help from the city and a big decision by Sandra and Rudy, the neighborhood that depends on Nuevo Leon for cooking essentials is now able to pick up fresh, healthier snacks. Food Options at a Meat Market On San Antonio’s Westside, a predominantly Latino ...

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