Promoting healthy eating from the ground up in Little Village’s Hispanic community

by Claire Thompson, trad. Víctor Flores
Extra News
CHICAGO — Late on a rainy Wednesday morning, a half dozen of Catalina Martinez’ friends, neighbors and fellow mothers trickled into the kitchen of her Little Village house to catch up over chicken salad sandwiches. They clamored for copies of the recipe, which called for fat-free yogurt instead of mayonnaise and recommended serving the salad on whole wheat bread.

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This monthly lunchtime gathering had an agenda: to learn to prepare simple, healthy and kid-friendly fare as part of their commitment to a healthy lifestyle for their families.

Sam Graham, a school health liaison from St. Anthony Hospital’s Community Wellness Program, brought the ingredients, copies of the recipe, and extra basil plants for anyone interested. Several women were.

In addition to working with parents to bring healthy cooking into the home, the Community Wellness Program offers “Mission Nutrition” classes in local schools so that kids, too, are aware of how their food choices affect their health. Graham led a class on a Monday morning at Finkl School in which third graders learned about the “tricks” food marketers use to make their products look bigger, tastier and healthier. They reviewed quick ways to identify healthy food options: colorful foods usually have more vitamins; a serving can fit in the palm of your hand; juice should say “100% juice” on the package.

“It’s not just healthy versus unhealthy food,” Graham says. “It’s trying to make the best choices we can anytime we can, and recognizing that (kids) can’t always make the choices, but in the times when they can choose (we want them to) make the best choices.”

Jovita Flores, a manager for the Parents United for Healthy Schools campaign, which mobilizes efforts like the cooking group at Martinez’ house, points out that what kids learn in the classroom often finds …

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