Promoting Wellness with Little Village Youth
Supporting youth in learning about nutrition and developing healthy eating habits is critical to improving the health of community members in La Villita. In September, Enlace’s Promotoras de Salud launched an in-depth nutrition program for students in 3rd through 5th grades at Rosario Castellanos and Eli Whitney, two of Enlace’s Community Schools.
Each class hosts about 10 students who look forward to meeting with their instructors each week. Meredith, a 5th grader at Eli Whitney said, “I like this class because they teach us how to take care of ourselves and keep ourselves healthy.” Alexandra, a 9-year-old participant, also enjoys the class because, “We do fun things and learn how to keep our bodies healthy.” Based on the positive reviews, Enlace plans to offer additional program sessions throughout the year and in years to come.
The Promotoras first started providing nutrition workshops as a complement to other afterschool programs and, in previous school years, they facilitated a curriculum that was only three weeks long. This year, the program stands on its own and has been extended to six weeks. This allows the Promotoras to integrate physical and creative activities that maximize the developmental benefits of the curriculum.
Promotoras work to ensure that the program is comprehensive and dynamic. As llda Hernandez, one of the instructors, explained, “During the first few weeks, we explain to the students what a healthy meal is and what it is not. Our goal is for kids to learn about portions, to learn how to read food labels so they know what they are eating. We explain that there are five food groups, and that we should consume them on a daily basis.” As Pablo, a participant in 4th grade, explained, he enjoys the class because, “We are taught how to consume less sugar.”
Two classes are specifically focused on creating designs and sculptures using different fruits in order to get students excited about eating them and learning about how their colors relate to their nutritional benefits. Jennifer, a 10-year-old 4th grade student, said she likes to participate in the program, “because we can eat fruits and we can share.”
Promotoras also work to ensure that classes are designed around students’ specific needs and interests in order to support them in learning as much as they can. During the first class, students receive a questionnaire that gives them the opportunity to talk about their eating habits. “We try to explain to them that it is not a test but, rather, it is a way for us to learn how we can help them,” explained Sahida Martinez, the other Enlace Promotora who facilitates the class. “At the end of the six weeks, we give them a second questionnaire to see how the classes have helped them when choosing their food.”
The program is designed to build students’ awareness and skills in a way that not only benefits them, but that also has a positive impact at home. As Ilda said, “We want children to learn about healthy eating and to share that information with their families.” Enlace is confident that this kind of wellness programming, focused on education and prevention, can reduce health problems in our community.