August 15, 2016 | by Letisia Marquez
A year ago, high school student Andy Ngo wouldn’t think twice about eating a bag of chips and gulping down a large soft drink.
But this past year, he participated in the Health and Wellness Initiative at San Gabriel High School, located in the San Gabriel Valley in California. Through the program, Ngo was exposed to new, healthier food choices, and learned how simple choices he makes now can have a lasting impact on his health.
Since then, he’s added foods such as kale and mustard greens to his diet and tries to take daily walks around his neighborhood.
“I had never had mustard greens or kale before,” said Ngo, 17, who is headed to University of California, Merced this fall. “Instead of just staying home to play video games, I try to walk around the block every day with my friends.”
Funded by a 2015 City of Hope Healthy Living Grant, Ngo and his classmates took part in a Business and Technology Academy class at their high school that promoted healthy eating via online memes, internal commercials and slogans.
They also tended a garden at the high school that grew such superfoods as chia seeds, quinoa and cactus. (Superfoods pack large doses of cancer fighting antioxidants, polyphenols, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and are considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.)
This past spring, students organized a schoolwide event titled, “Garden to Table,” which featured free samples of fruits and vegetables grown in the garden, as well as recipes using those products.
“It was important to get the message out about healthy eating and exercise to as many students as possible,” said Jesse Chang, who works for the nonprofit group Kingdom Causes, which assisted the students with the garden. He added that the school’s medical academy, environmental club and some physical education students also were involved.
The school’s Health and Wellness Initiative is part of the first group of community organizations funded by City of Hope, which each received a $5,000 grant, said Nancy Clifton-Hawkins, City of Hope’s community benefit manager.
“Healthy Living Grants demonstrate City of Hope’s commitment to creating healthier communities by supporting grassroots efforts that lower the risk of cancer and diabetes,” Clifton-Hawkins said. “It was tremendously exciting to see our first group of grantees tackle a wide range of health, health care and access issues, and this year’s grantees are following in their footsteps.”
City of Hope recently announced its 2016 Health Living Grant recipients:
Alta Med — Diabetes Group Visit Program El Monte
AltaMed will assist people with prediabetes in making lifestyle changes that reduce their high risk of developing diabetes. Using this model they will expand and enhance programs in El Monte and West Covina.
Azusa Pacific University — Wellness Opportunities for Healthy Living
The program aims to decrease inactivity, prevent diabetes and promote healthy nutrition and lifestyle changes through health and wellness checks, physical fitness and exercise prescription programs.
Foothill Unity Center — Health Nutrition Education Program
Low income and homeless families will learn about the relationship between food/nutrition and physical and mental health. The project will support the organization’s primary service, which is to provide food security and health related services to low income and homeless families in crisis in the San Gabriel Valley.
Planned Parenthood Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley — Mobile Mammography Expansion
This project strives to increase access to mammography for older women through targeted mobile mammography and health education to vulnerable communities throughout the San Gabriel Valley.
San Gabriel High School Medical Academy — Healthy Living Starts Within
Building on the work of the school’s Business and Technology Academy’s Health and Wellness Initiative, the Medical Careers Academy, a student-run program, will educate peers about healthy eating while maintaining behaviors, like exercise, to support good health.
Tzu Chi Medical Foundation — Healthy Community in the San Gabriel Valley
San Gabriel Valley residents who face language and culture barriers can improve their health through preventative health education, plant-based diets and physical activity. Classes and workshops will be provided in Chinese and/or English and take place at clinics in South EI Monte and Alhambra. Educational materials will be available in English, Chinese and Spanish.
Western University Health Sciences — Healthy Living and Active Living in Pomona
Health promoters and nursing students – under the supervision and guidance of the university’s nursing faculty – will develop and lead 12–week, age-appropriate healthy living workshops for the community’s parents and children.
YWCA San Gabriel Valley — Healthy Parents and Kids SGV
The YWCA will assist parents in developing healthy living practices to combat obesity and change their lifestyles. Parents can also participate in or lead food demonstrations to learn how to make healthier meals and snacks that use fruits and vegetables.