Practicing what we preach – Healthy Eating & Active Living
I had the pleasure of attending the HEAL Collaborative Promising Practices Exchange 2015. More than 100 agencies came together at the beautiful Falls Event Center in Elk Grove to discuss promising practices and celebrate the work surrounding health policies, programs, and services within low-income and high-need communities.
The Promising Practices Exchange was hosted by the Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Collaborative within the Delta and Gold Region. This region spans over 10 counties, from the San Joaquin Valley to northern California. This one-day conference has doubled in agency participation from the previous year, demonstrating the amazing work that is being done and the continuing need within the community.
Perhaps my favorite part about the conference was the fruit-infused bar where participants were given complimentary water jugs. Jug in hand, we were able to fill it with ice-cold water and handpick the fruits, vegetables, and herbs to infuse into our water. I chose a citrus theme with mint and rosemary accents. In part with the Rethink Your Drink campaign, the fruit-infused water bar is a way to practice what we preach as we practice choosing healthy alternatives to sugar-filled drinks.
The conference opened up with Dr. Elizabeth Baca as keynote speaker. Dr. Baca gave an insightful and very informative talk about health policies and her journey as a physician to her current work in impacting health policies, which is one of the underlying goals the HEAL Collaborative strives to work on.
The first workshop series featured various conversations around active living. I decided to join in the dialogue surrounding active play in elementary schools.
According to the presentation, children are recommended to have at least 60 minutes daily of moderate to vigorous physical activity everyday during school.
These physical activities can be defined as anything that will increase the heart rate, get the blood flowing, and increase breath rate. Some children reach this requirement by walking to and from school or other extracurricular activities.
But for many other students, their primary source of physical activity is derived from allotted time during the school day. Schools may implement time for physical activity in various forms: physical education, recess time, or scheduled classroom breaks. With the rates of obesity and Type II diabetes on the rise for young children, it is so crucial that students get the exercise they need.
In this discussion, we were able to learn of the different ways we can incorporate more physical activity for children during the school day.
Workshops in the second series were dedicated to healthy eating. The workshop I attended discussed access and community work around fresh produce and farmers’ markets. A panel of guest speakers consisted of representatives from the following agencies: Alchemist Community Development Corporation, Grace Presbyterian Church, Yolo Food Bank, and Farm Fresh to You.
The two agencies that stood out to me in particular, did amazing work in engaging the community. Alchemist Community Development Corp. works to open a new food market for EBT users who are low-income folks. This enables them to access fresh produce from local growers at farmers’ markets, being a great benefit to local businesses and people who usually cannot afford or have access to farmer’s markets.
Yolo Food Bank has an amazing program that works with children in elementary schools. Fresh produce donated to the food bank is used in the program for children to organize their own farmers’ market in their schools. Students are able to man the booths and also shop and bring the produce home. Yolo Food Bank also works to provide nutritional education and some physical activity to the children. It’s a great way for the children to bring home healthy food to their parents who might not be able otherwise provide for their families.
Other mentionable occurrences were poster presentations on programs such as MyPlate, Rethink Your Drink, and Harvest of the Month, and many others that were on display. Champions of Change Awards for amazing work regarding health were awarded to ten agencies.
Practicing what we preach also came in forms of sporadic breaks between presentations. Instructor-led energy breaks had us doing various stretches such as practicing our favorite sports maneuvers, like basketball jump shots. We even ended the conference with a dance along to Michelle Obama on the Ellen Degeneres show.
HEAL Collaborative’s Promising Practices Exchange was a huge success in bringing together a diverse and dedicated group of individuals who are all connected by a single passion – to improve the lives of who they can reach through health policy change and education.
Check out the video for local news coverage of the conference!
Maihnia Lee is an AmeriCorps VISTA with United Way California Capital Region. She works in the Community Impact Department on programs surrounding health and education. A Sacramento transplant, Maihnia enjoys yoga, dancing, and travel.