This activity is unique in that it teaches individuals how to make healthy choices even when their food options are limited. The reality of many of the communities here is that residents have little access to fresh and healthy foods. Known as food deserts, these communities lack the presence of large grocery stores and have limited or unreliable public transportation to get to grocery stores outside of their community. Teaching them how to recognize the nutritional value of the food items that are accessible plays a vital role in their ability to prepare healthy meals.
Another creative way CHWs help families merge nutrition and their cultural dishes is by preparing the meals with them. As CHWs often hold their educational sessions in community centers, schools and at participant’s homes, kitchens are regularly available. This allows the CHWs to engage participants in cooking demonstrations on site. Together, they peel and chop vegetables, learn how to prepare proteins, and even taste-test the meals after they are done. This demonstration assures participants that their cultural dishes can be prepared in a nutritious way and the confidence to do so on their own.
Perhaps what makes our health living initiative programs most valuable is that they are designed to include the entire family. Poor dietary habits are often carried over from childhood to adulthood.4 Having the ability to provide this education that connects children to their culture, coupled with a child’s school nutrition program can propel them to make healthier food choices throughout the entirety of their lives. And the inclusion of parents and grandparents only assures that these skills are reinforced at home.
Along with being family-centered, our CHWs programs are flexible during emergency situations. Whether it be a hurricane or the outbreak of a national pandemic, CHWs know what methods they can utilize to get information into their communities. Most recently, to address the recent COVID-19 outbreak, our CHWs have ramped up phone and online support showing further evidence that the CHW programs can be adapted for any situation.