In October 2009, UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County was awarded a grant from the “UCLA REACH U.S. Legacy Project” to implement the “East Los Angeles Nutrition Project” - an exciting new initiative that aims to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables for residents of East LA through healthy corner store and restaurant “makeovers.” East LA was chosen for this project not only because Cooperative Extension is located in this area and has strong ties to the community, but also because residents have poor access to healthy, affordable food. This predominantly low-income, Latino community has many fast food restaurants, few grocery stores with high quality fruits and vegetables, and one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the county.
Through the eyes of the community
A team of dedicated East LA residents have met monthly at the UCCE office to discuss what they would like to see in terms of healthy food offerings in their neighborhood. In order to make their voices heard, these residents were given cameras and asked to go out and document their food environment. The photographs and narrative descriptions were presented at a community event, which was hosted by Cooperative Extension. Local residents, business owners, community agencies, youth and representatives of elected officials attended the event. The photos were a depiction of the problems facing this community. Everyone agreed that something needs to be done to improve the availability of healthy, affordable food for local residents and to address nutrition-related health problems facing many families in East LA.
Putting it into action
On Saturday, May 8, Cooperative Extension staff and members of the “East Los Angeles Nutrition Project” met at Super Chavez, a locally owned corner store, to conduct recipe demonstrations and free food tastings for the public. The purpose was to draw attention to the high-quality, low-cost produce available in the store. The event was fun and well-received by the community. Cooperative Extension plans to hold similar events at food establishments throughout the East LA area. Staff members hope to provide technical assistance, nutrition expertise and free advertising opportunities to businesses who participate in this project – all in an attempt to bring lasting change to a community in need of a healthy makeover one corner store and restaurant at a time!
For more information about this project, please contact Los Angeles County Nutrition, Family & Consumer Sciences advisor Brenda Roche at email@example.com, (323) 260-3299.