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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, perfectly 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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Sports Advocate Opens the Gates for Families to Play at School Parks



George Block has fought for children for a long time. When Block saw disadvantaged kids not able to swim at local pools in the 1970s in San Antonio (63% Latino population), he fought for a new aquatic center that would provide free swim programs for them. When Block jogged through a low-income neighborhood and heard Mexican soccer games blaring from homes, but low youth soccer participation in the 1980s, he drove changes to enable more play. He even helped launch San Antonio Sports, a foundation that builds new sports facilities and spurs school facilities to open publicly. So…what did Block and his team do in 2016 when he saw many San Antonio families not using these facilities to capacity? He stepped up again and created a literal “gateway” to promote family use of ...

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Fred Cardenas: Improving Mental Healthcare for Kids in San Antonio



"I hear demons telling me to be bad." "I need my medicine to calm down." "Mom has a new boyfriend, but that’s okay cause dad has a new girlfriend." Fred Cardenas has heard these statements from kids ages 6 and younger who suffer mental health issues. Cardenas, who has spent 30 years in early childhood services in San Antonio (68% Latino), said overwhelmed parents and stressed teachers struggle to deal with these kids. Health workers too often look for a psychiatric diagnosis to medicate. He wanted to help parents, teachers, and health workers look more at the context and relationships experienced by the kids. So Cardenas helped build a program—Early Childhood Well Being (ECWB) at Family Service Association of San Antonio. ECWB intervenes early for kids ages 0-8 ...

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City Leader Rey Saldaña Helps At-Risk Latinos Learn to Swim



When he was a kid, Rey Saldaña couldn’t swim. His family couldn’t afford lessons. So Saldaña was a little scared as he and his second-grade classmates walked into a chlorine-smelling aquatic center to learn how to swim as part of a federally funded program in San Antonio, Texas (63.34% Latino). He overcame his fear and learned to swim, thanks to that “Learn to Swim” program. Sadly, the program folded before his younger brother could participate. When Saldaña became a member of the San Antonio City Council many years later, he helped recreate the Learn to Swim program to reduce drowning and build kids’ confidence. He didn’t stop there. Saldaña worked with others to on two big projects—renovating an aquatic center and building a new one—that could ...

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