LOS ANGELES — Inequitable food environments and unhealthy diets are key contributors to the rise of obesity and disease in the U.S.
What You Need To Know
- FEAST is a nonprofit that promotes health and wellness in underserved communities
- It also helps those struggling with the effects of living in a broken food system
- Studies show people of color are twice as likely to have major chronic disease
- FEAST offers a 16-week program
Reports show that 34 million Americans have diabetes, and 108 million have high blood pressure, with adults living in poverty five times as likely to experience poor health.
Los Angeles resident Julia Gonzalez decided to change her lifestyle, as well as her family’s, through the kitchen. The mother of four and grandmother of 10 admits she had bad eating habits for years. She opts for sweets and snacks throughout the day instead of fresh fruits and vegetables because it was how she was raised. But now, she is learning something new.
Gonzalez also felt that eating healthy was too expensive. Since she wasn’t working and has such a large family she primarily feeds, she didn’t think it would be possible like it is today.
“I believed before it was expensive, but that is a myth,” she said. “Now I know that if you make a plan, and as a woman you are the one deciding what to eat, I can make a plan of what to eat and what is good for you.”
Gonzalez’s mindset shifted after participating in a 16-week program through the nonprofit FEAST, which promotes health and wellness in underserved communities while helping those struggling with the effects of living in a broken food system. Gonzalez took virtual classes where she says she learned the difference between good and bad fats, how to stay away from lots of sugar and sodium, and where to access healthy foods.
Studies show people of color are twice as likely to have major chronic disease and that adults in poverty are five times as likely to report bad health, all stemming from a lack of access to healthy meals.
“I can share the story about my mom’s cancer, diabetes and thyroid issues. All those things motivate me,” said Gonzalez. “I am really committed to do this change for my family, and you can really change the tradition.”
Gonzalez watched a class taught by Ana Guzman, who was a participant herself in 2015. She wanted to break the cycle of unhealthy eating in her family.
“The Latino community, there is so much diabetes, high blood pressure, all those things. That motivates me to make the difference,” said Guzman. “I want to cut the chain there. I want my generation to be different.”
Guzman decided to volunteer by teaching classes in Spanish and now has a full-time job with FEAST as the family and community partnerships manager. She wants to help her community and beyond learn the power of food for both physical and mental health and show them it can be affordable.
Gonzalez hopes to pass down her new education to her family, like her grandson Gio, who loves almonds. She says they all hold each other accountable to stay on track one colorful salad at a time.
If you would like to learn more about the program, visit the website.