List of Stories
The UC Davis’ Center for Nutrition in Schools has created and research-tested the Shaping Healthy Choices Program (SHCP) since 2012. This evidence-based program is a multi-component, school-based intervention addressing the complex issue of behavior change and childhood obesity. In 2016, about 48% of teens in Riverside County were designated obese (highest 5th percentile) and 11% overweight (www.ask.chis.ucla.edu). Recognizing this issue, the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program in Riverside County partnered with two school districts to implement the Shaping Healthy Choices Program.
The first Out-of-School Time Nutrition Summit for Southern California hosted by California Summer Meal Coalition of the Institute for Local Government was held in Upland, CA in January 2017. This meeting highlighted the needs to support and increase summer meals participation in the Inland Empire. The Summer Meals Program is funded by USDA to ensure that youth from families that are food insecure continue to receive nutritious meals when school is out. The number of students eligible for Free/Reduced Price Meal in Riverside County is 270,907 (63% of student enrollment). During summer, Riverside County has over 200 summer meal sites providing healthy lunches, however, the summer lunch daily participation average is only 17,113 or about 6% of eligible students.
Forty percent of Coachella Valley children aged 2 to 17 are overweight or obese (2013, harcdata.org). Located in a remote area with limited access to fresh fruit and vegetables, the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Reservation covers 24,024 acres of desert spanning part of Coachella Valley and Imperial County, with an estimated population of 4,000. The tribal headquarters, in the unincorporated community of Thermal, is the location of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF is charged with providing assistance and social support to families with children on the reservation. TANF Family Preservation Services, Youth Division was interested in nutrition education that would help children develop good eating habits and a healthy lifestyle.
The Eastside Neighborhood, one of the oldest residential areas of the City of Riverside, is also one of the poorest. More than half of the adults and almost a quarter of the teenagers were considered overweight in 2012 when Kaiser Permanente funded the Heal Zone Initiative to improve the community’s overall wellness through education and increased access to healthy local food. The Community Settlement Association (CSA), founded over 100 years ago to help immigrants from Mexico settle into Riverside, now provides social services and food distributions to the Eastside residents. The Association needed assistance to revitalize the existing garden to help residents have access to fresh produce.
In the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino Counties), the Head Start programs serve disadvantaged families with children from birth to the age of 5 in Head Start center or home-based options. In the home-based program, a Head Start teacher visits with parents in their home weekly to teach them strategies to enhance child development, and improve health and school readiness. It is estimated that about 14.5% of children under five are overweight for their age in the Inland Empire. Head Start teachers understand that parent involvement and education is a key to helping children start on the right path to good health and seek assistance to bring nutrition education to the Head Start parents. UC Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) has long provided nutrition classes at the center-based locations, but the home-based Head Start parents were left out.
Alvord Unified School District was awarded a $1.1 million Physical Education (PE) Program Grant for 2012-2015 and UC Cooperative Extension was a partner on this grant. In addition to improving PE programs, the grant objectives include increasing ongoing assessment and monitoring, increasing district and community support, and transitioning from a sports-based PE program to a wellness-based curriculum aligned to State standards. To be successful, Alvord Unified needed a team of dedicated partners. UC Cooperative Extension was one of the key partners working alongside others such as the Alliance for a Healthier Generation funded by Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools, the Nutrition Education Obesity Prevention Program, and 15 other public entities and community-based organizations.
In Riverside County, the CalFresh program (federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) serves 289,188 low-income individuals. According to California Food Policy Advocates, 37% of low-income households in 2014 were food insecure, having limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Educating CalFresh participants about making healthy food choices and shopping on a limited budget can help to improve their nutrition and food security; however, the challenge is that this population is very hard to reach and may be at different stages of readiness to change behaviors.
Despite the documented health benefits of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, less than 50 percent of California children eat five or more servings of fruit/vegetables daily. Low-income populations in particular face many barriers to consuming fruit and vegetables. To overcome these barriers, the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) changed its policy in October 2009 and began distributing cash vouchers to low-income women and children to purchase fruit and vegetables.