Vanguards of longevity

As part of their well-rounded approach to wellness, Comunidades Unidas offers yoga demonstrations.

“Well, look, I am Mexican, so everything!” Silvia laughs as she tries to list her favorite foods. But she knows that not everything is healthy to eat, especially after she was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure.

“In the beginning I got scared,” she says. She wasn’t looking forward to thinking about what you can and can’t eat. But things became easier after she learned about Comprando Rico y Sano through Wendy Cordova, a promotora de salud (community health worker) at Comunidades Unidas of Utah, an UnidosUS Affiliate.

There are 25 Affiliates implementing the program, providing cooking demonstrations and grocery store tours to more than 12,000 Latinos. Comprando Rico y Sano also helps qualifying families apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, helping them afford the healthy meals they’ve learned to cook.

Promotoras de salud teach the community about healthy eating.

When SNAP was threatened with budget cuts, UnidosUS’s advocacy helped protect the program, allowing it to continue being an important lifeline to more than 10 million low-income Latinos. SNAP is one of our country’s best ways to fight hunger, and around two-thirds of the recipients are children, seniors and the disabled.

But SNAP is also a fight against poverty: in 2015, at least 1.2 million Latinos were lifted out of poverty thanks to SNAP, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That’s why our advocacy work to revise the Farm Bill without cuts in federal food assistance programs or new work requirements was such an important win for our community.

The strength of Comprando Rico y Sano also comes from the charlas (nutrition classes), grocery store tours, and cooking demonstrations show participants how easy it is to shop for and prepare healthy meals on a budget. “Now I continue eating my favorite foods, but, for example, before I used to use pork all the time. Now I try to make everything with chicken,” Silvia continues, “and I am using a lot of vegetables.”

Silvia has seen the change: she has lost weight and she can now live healthy with her condition. She also tries to stay active, and she never eats in fast-food restaurants: “I don’t like the taste anymore. The healthiest meals are the ones you cook at home.”

Comprando Rico y Sano includes tours of grocery stores, offering affordable ways to eat healthy.

“She wanted to make a change in her life and her diet, but it came with challenges,” Yehemy Zavala, Preventive Health Program Manager at Comunidades Unidas, shares about Silvia’s struggle. “She didn’t understand what the doctor explained about the adjustments she needed in her diet, but with Wendy’s help Silvia learned about portions, and decreasing her sugar, fat, and flour consumption.”

Participants love every part of the Comprando Rico y Sano program at Comunidades Unidas, but the charlas are especially engaging: “We ask questions to the clients, and it makes it more valuable for them because they are also sharing their knowledge,” Yehemy says.

After having gone through the program, clients also become advocates for it. Silvia now encourages everyone to buy and eat healthy foods: “Buy food that you will cook yourself: you can make so many simple things that will be healthier than eating out, and cheaper! I share this with all the women I know.” 

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