In recognition of Hunger Action Month and National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, NCLR invited a Comprando Rico y Sano community partner to share their experiences working with Latinos on ways to eat healthily and affordably, and helping eligible Latinos enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In 2015, 25 community organizations enrolled 26,557 Latinos in SNAP through this program. Our Affiliate Brighton Park Neighborhood Council won the 2016 NCLR Helen Rodríguez-Trías Award for their dedication and outstanding efforts to build a culture of health in their Latino community.
By Mariela Estrada, Director of Community Organizing, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council
Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC) is a community-based nonprofit in Southwest Chicago. For three years, we have shared knowledge from NCLR’s Comprando Rico y Sano program that seeks to reduce hunger and instill healthy shopping and eating habits among Latinos.
After attending NCLR training, we train our promotoras de salud (community health workers) on the Comprando Rico y Sano curriculum. Our promotoras host small educational sessions—also known as charlas—at various sites in Chicago, including park districts, public libraries, and other community gathering places. They talk about good nutrition and resources to combat hunger, such as SNAP, which is especially helpful in low-income Latino communities. Since all of our promotoras live in the community, they have a strong connection to residents. Their messages have great impact because people look to them for motivation in learning how to make changes to their nutrition and lifestyles.
SNAP is an important part of our outreach in Chicago’s Latino neighborhoods. Promotoras correct myths such as, “If I apply for assistance, the government will charge my children when they are older,” or “If my family receives SNAP benefits, this will affect us during immigration reform.” Once people receive accurate information, then they will enroll in SNAP and feel happy knowing they can purchase healthy and affordable meals for their families. As the new school year starts, BPNC is working with our partner network of public schools to help families with SNAP enrollment. Since we work at schools across southwest Chicago, families don’t have to travel long distances and BPNC staff can help them apply for SNAP benefits in Spanish at a convenient time in their schedules.
Another way we fulfill BPNC’s social justice mission is by hosting grocery store tours to show families how—with just $5—they can prepare a healthy, delicious, and nutritious meal for four. The “MyPlate” information presented at the charlas is essential, as are smart shopping strategies such as buying in bulk and looking for seasonal fresh produce on sale. The smiles of appreciation and surprise after people purchase nutritional items with only $5 for a meal of their choice are evident after every grocery tour and makes the experience valuable for promotoras and community residents alike.
Our promotoras de salud attend cooking demonstrations led by professional chefs and apply the tips they learn to create their own fun and engaging community cooking demonstrations that fit people’s everyday lives. Participants learn to make simple recipes from the promotoras that are familiar, fast, and economical. The cooking demonstrations highlight meals at home that require less time and ingredients, and are more nutritiously balanced than restaurant meals.
This summer, moms and children attended the charlas and cooking demonstrations together. At one cooking demonstration, our promotora Silvia heard the son of Antonia—a participant—ask his mom to cook what they’d learned about at home. As Antonia heard her son’s enthusiasm, she commented that she now had more cost-effective and healthy options for her family’s meals.
Many families who have joined our Comprando Rico y Sano activities have shared their positive feedback and sent us pictures of their own nutritious home meals. Our goal is to expand nutrition education and help families stretch their dollars wisely, as well as enroll those eligible into SNAP, a crucial resource that further helps families on a limited budget. We look forward to continuing this work. For more information, please contact Brighton Park Neighborhood Council at bpncchicago.org or at (773) 523-7110.
Comprando Rico y Sano is possible thanks to support from the Walmart Foundation.