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Diabetes Prevention Program in Santa Barbara, California

s50The Sansum Diabetes Research Institute (SDRI) is a non-profit research center devoted to the prevention, treatment, and cure of diabetes. Rose Linehan, project coordinator for youth outreach, shares how she has incorporated Nourish into the Institute’s programs.

The majority of participants in our programs — Ready2Move and Summer2Move — are low-income Latino youth. These programs are provided at no cost to participants, making them accessible and engaging for the underserved. Today’s unengaged youth are more likely to adopt sedentary behaviors or even join gangs, but health advocacy programs like Ready2Move offer a positive alternative.

Alejandra Zepeda (15) participates in these programs because she “can have fun and learn at the same time” while being “distracted from doing bad things.” Her sister Esmeralda Zepeda (13) credits the Summer2Move program with helping her “achieve many goals such as better eating choices and exercising.” These prevention programs teach youth the importance of a healthy lifestyle, a message supported by the Nourish curriculum.

This past summer fifteen local youth took part in the Summer2Move program, meeting every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for eight weeks. Through education, physical activities, hands-on cooking lessons, a Trader Joe’s field trip, and beach days, participants learned how to improve their health and reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes. All fifteen participants graduated from the program in August and received a certificate for their accomplishments. They were also given a stopwatch, a graph of their weekly mile run times, a personal wellness report, and a newfound self-confidence.

I incorporated the Nourish curriculum into every week’s theme to focus my students’ attention on food literacy. There are many ways to teach youth about healthy eating, but my experience is that you must paint a bigger picture for them to truly grasp the impact of their food choices. Visual handouts such as “The Industrial Food System” and “The Local Food System” (found in “The Story of Food”) were a great way for students to understand their relationship to the whole.

The Nourish DVD’s segment on “Connections” provides another way for youth to realize that food is important in all cultures and that understanding other cultures allows us to better understand our own. Youth must also interact with the material to truly grasp it which is made possible through lessons such as the Seasonal Circle project in “Seasonal, Local Food”. In Summer2Move, a student leader read out the list of produce for each season as the other students filled them into their Seasonal Circles. This was an effective way to share the message about seasonal eating in a student-teaching-student environment.

s46The Nourish curriculum fit into my larger teaching goals of improving the food literacy of my students. From my experience, a majority of today’s youth (and adults!) are surprisingly undereducated when it comes to proper food choices and overall health habits.

Connecting their daily choices to the world food system and the health of our environment is an effective way to get the messages to stick, and the Nourish curriculum allows me to do this in an easy, creative way. I often start weekly meetings with one of the 54 “bite-sized videos” from the Nourish Short Films DVD because they are engaging and kick-start group discussions. They also make health “cool” because celebrities like Jamie Oliver are talking to them about it.

From my experience working with local underserved youth at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, I have come to understand that health education is about planting a seed. That seed may not blossom or grow for years. I may not personally ever see the fruits of that seed. However, my job is simply to plant the seed and nurture it to the best of my ability.

It all starts with education. Underserved, low-income youth will one day be adults, parents, and professionals. It is crucial that they have a basic understanding of health (including food literacy!) both now and then so they are living with an awareness about their own health, their community’s health, and their planet’s health. I am thankful for the Nourish curriculum because it makes it easier for me to plant seeds and nurture their growth. Thank you for such a useful set of resources!

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