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Lessons in healthy eating help families fight obesity trend

Juan Carlos Chavez, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in Health & Fitness

“I feel good supporting all these people who, for the most part, are women who have a lot of responsibilities,” Huitron said. “The change we seek for them depends on the effort and commitment of each of us.”

Bridges to Health gets help in its food distribution, the first and third Thursday of each month in Wimauma, from the YMCA Veggie Van — a mobile marketplace that also visits Lacoochee, Sulphur Springs, Tampa Heights, Dover y Plant City.

“This food delivery method helps to remove barriers to individual access, and expand food distribution capacity,” said Veggie Van program director Elizabeth Roman.

The social workers meet with groups of five to 10 parents, sharing recipes, emphasizing the importance of cutting down on fat and encouraging more fruits and vegetables in the family diet.

“Prevention is essential in this type of work,” said Rocío “Rosy” Bailey, project director at Bridges to Health.

Many health problems disproportionately affect Latinos, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, Bailey said.

In a nation where obesity is widespread, Hispanics suffer even more, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Among people 20 and older, 80 percent of Hispanics are obese compared to 70 percent among non-Hispanic whites. Among high school students, Hispanics were 50 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites.

Obesity exposes people to dozens of complications, diabetes as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and hypertension.

The Bridges to Health program aims to expand its impact by enrolling more Hispanic people in health coverage plans, Bailey said.

 

Aracely Morales, 34, was born in Mexico and suffers from diabetes and high cholesterol.

The mother of girls 10 and 13, Morales was the first in line to receive two boxes of fresh vegetables Thursday. She wants to help her family improve its eating habits and reduce the consumption of sugar and pastas.

Her medical condition demands it, too. Morales drinks a green smoothie every morning to keep her blood sugar levels under control.

“I’ve been learning all of this with the help of the program,” said Morales, a farmworker. “You never finish learning.”

Accompanying Morales on Thursday was her friend Xiomara Uriza, a 28-year-old Nicaraguan immigrant, who welcomes the fruits, vegetables and grains the program enables her to include in the diets of her sons, 9 and 4.

People in her neighborhood would like to eat healthier food, Uriza said, but many don’t have access to a vehicle so they can drive to a store and buy it. The closest grocery store, Aldi, is a 40-minute walk.

“That is why this help is very important,” she said.

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