We have all heard “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but what is this trying to convey, and is the message of value to the average person? In its essence, “an apple a day…” alludes to that, if an individual eats healthier, that person will be healthier. But what happens when that apple is not accessible, or if it is, how can it be prepared in a way that is healthy and flavorful to people who do not like apples?
The South Valley of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has long been a place where culture, tradition and food have intersected. Like many places, shifting systems of food production have impacted diets, lifestyles and community health. While in the not-too-distant past, an agrarian lifestyle was the norm in the South Valley, the community is now considered to be a food desert, where healthy foods are not available. However, efforts have been undertaken to support activities and programs that can lead to permanent systemic changes that support rebuilding local food systems
By partnering with a South Valley-based farmer-owned cooperative, Agri-Cultura Network/La Cosecha CSA and the Mobile Farmer’s Market (MFM) (funded in part by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), for the past three years First Choice Community Healthcare has been able to help provide community access to local, organic, seasonal vegetables and fruit. Some of the foods included in CSA bags and on sale at the MFM are traditional to the South Valley and to markets in general: squash, carrots, onions, tomatoes, corn and peppers of all varieties. In addition, new choices such as kale, chard, garlic scapes and turnips have been introduced. These offerings have elicited questions. “What is this?” and “How do I cook it?” can be heard on most market days.
For the past four years, First Choice has hosted and co-coordinated Cooking for Health classes at its South Valley Health Commons clinic classroom. The classes provide solutions on how to cook unfamiliar foods in healthy, relatively quick and tasty ways. While they prioritize making “the healthy choice the easy choice,” the classes also emphasize positive lifestyle changes. They are structured in a way that is conducive to community and family interaction. Along with health discussions and recipe demonstrations, there are stretching, breathing or movement breaks, as well as engaging health-related childcare activities.
Each class has a health-related theme—for example, low-fat or low-salt recipes and healthy desserts. A First Choice provider, usually Dr. Will Kaufman, director of Health and Wellness, facilitates a question-and-answer talk that centers on chronic health conditions related to diet and exercise or lack thereof. Often through their questions, class participants shape the discussion and receive answers to the questions that most concern them.
The first recipe covered during a class may be a healthy liquado drink. These can include infused water, smoothie and nut milks. Then there may be two or three food recipes, which may be as simple as a kale chip demonstration or as advanced as plant-based tamales. The recipes introduce meals such as a quinoa-nopal salad, and demonstrate how to substitute healthier ingredients and/or cooking methods in preparing traditional dishes.
The class also incorporates “active living” activities such as yoga, stretching, deep breathing and mindfulness exercises. Participants receive prizes at dance contests. During these activities, parents and grandparents are up and down checking on their little ones. Even with the onsite childcare activities, the class is designed to be intergenerational so that health and wellness techniques and resources can be integrated within the whole family.
The classes would not be as successful without the partner organizations. BlueCross BlueShield-NM, HKHF and Presbyterian Healthcare Services have provided funding; Cooperativa Korimi, Inc. has worked on outreach; ACCESS contributes to childcare; the Agri-Cultura Network/La Cosecha contributes food and facilitation. And there are many community volunteers.
While eating an apple a day may be a good start, improving health and wellness works best with a process that involves many partners and engages community members in taking an active role.
Juan López is First Choice Community Healthcare’s South Valley Commons coordinator. For more information, call 505.873.7400 or visit www.fcch.com
The Agri-Cultura Network
Helga García Garza
The Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network (ACN), based in Albuquerque’s South Valley, aggregates, processes, distributes and sells locally grown produce to help ensure that healthy food is accessible and affordable to low-income families that might otherwise be struggling with poor nutrition or hunger.
Río Abajo and Río Arriba communities have a long cultural tradition of earth-friendly agricultural practices. This legacy has inspired and driven ACN’s work and has allowed the organization to become community-driven.
Since 2009, the network has become one of the region’s leading farmer cooperatives. It now has an established record of capacity building for farmers, who greatly benefit from shared infrastructure and equipment, collective purchasing of supplies, as well as aggregating produce, processing, sales and distribution. ACN also offers small-business training. In 2017, in partnership with Bernalillo County Open Space, AGN offered its first season of “Grow the Growers,” a farm-training program on land adjacent to the historic Gutiérrez-Hubbell house.
La Cosecha CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), an innovative project of ACN, in six years, has grown from providing 20 families with weekly fresh produce bags to providing 350 families during a 20-week season. Last year there were eight distribution sites; this season there are 17. Community-based partner organizations easily access and distribute subsidized local produce, along with nutrition education. This helps families build confidence in preparing healthy foods and increase healthy behavior. It has also created economic opportunities in communities that are served.
The Healthy Here Mobile Farmers’ Market, another AGN program, offers affordable produce in the South Valley, the International District and other areas, also plays a role in establishing steady, alternative markets for local farmers and allied farms.
Helga García Garza, an organic farmer, is co-director of the Agricultura Cooperative Network/La Cosecha. She oversees food access and health operations, program development and collaborations/partnerships. Call 505.217.2461 or visit http://agri-cultura.org
Healthy Here Mobile Farmers’ Market
The Healthy Here Mobile Farmers’ Market is part of a collaborative led by Presbyterian Healthcare Services Center for Community Health and the Bernalillo County Community Health Council, in partnership with community organizations interested in increasing access to fresh produce in the South Valley and International District neighborhoods of Bernalillo County. The market travels to six locations offering recipes, cooking demonstrations, food tastings and fresh produce from local farms.
In 2016, the market sold over $15,000 worth of produce to more than 1,000 community members. In addition to improving food access and promoting health education, the market also supports local famers by being a consistent resource for distribution of harvested produce. The Healthy Here Mobile Farmers’ Market will continue traveling around Albuquerque until the end of the growing season on Oct. 31. All forms of payment including food stamps are accepted. (Get twice as much for the same price with Double Up Food Bucks.)
Healthy Here Mobile Farmers’ Market Schedule:
9:30–11 a.m.: UNM Southeast Heights Clinic
8200 Central Ave. SE
12–1:30 p.m.: First Nations Community Healthsource
5608 Zuni Rd. SE
2:30–4 p.m.: Van Buren Middle School, 700 Louisiana Blvd. SE
11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.: Presbyterian Medical Group
3436 Isleta Blvd. SW
2–3:30 p.m.: First Choice Community Healthcare
2001 El Centro Familiar Blvd. SW
4:30–6 p.m.: Los Padillas Community Center
2117 Los Padillas Rd. SW
Bernalillo County and Kids Cook! Launch “fūdrr” Healthy Lifestyle Competition
This month, Kids Cook! is launching the fūdrr (“fooder”) pilot project in downtown Albuquerque. Fūdrr users earn fresh produce at local retailers. Fūdrr coupons are redeemable at the downtown Silver Street Market. Through October, the coupons will also be accepted at Health Here Mobile Farmers Market in six locations throughout the International District and the South Valley. By signing up for fūdrr in October, people will receive 100 bonus points.
Presbyterian Healthcare Services’ Center for Community Health sponsored the development of the fūdrr bilingual, healthy lifestyle web app. The project’s anchor partners are the Bernalillo County Wellness Program, Downtown Arts & Cultural District, NM Health Care Takes on Diabetes/Prescription Trails, and Presbyterian Healthcare Service. The UNM Anderson School of Business is a supporter through its Small Business Initiative. Kids Cook! is seeking additional fūdrr redemption sites and sponsors.
· Rewards users for posting healthy eating and active living photos and videos
· Allows points to be donated to other fūdrr user and local schools
· Creates “healthy” competition among individuals, families, neighborhoods, schools and communities
· Provides a tool for healthcare partners and sponsors to motivate their members and patients to adopt healthier lifestyles
· Facilitates collaboration among healthcare, government, school, food retailers and other business partners interested in fun, family-friendly, on-line challenges that provide positive brand name recognition
· Brings customers to fūdrr retail sponsors
· Offers customized healthy lifestyle campaigns for specific high-risk cohorts, such as people with diabetes or heart disease
· Promotes positive business branding through sponsored, location-based outreach campaigns and contests
· Includes powerful analytical, HIPPA-compliant data tools tool to motivate and track healthy eating and active living activities
· Provides detailed user analytics
About Kids Cook!
Founded in 2001, Kids Cook! has provided healthy eating, cooking and active living programming for over 40,000 students in low-income schools. Kids Cook! has expanded its reach to helping families and the general public. For additional information, email Mary Meyer, Kids Cook! director: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hospital Program Offers Kids Free Healthy Meals
In New Mexico, one in four children struggles with hunger, according to Feeding America. And the evidence is clear—when children have access to healthy, nutritious food they earn better grades and test scores, their ability to focus improves, and they are less likely to miss school.
Healthy food is also critical for overall health. As part of its commitment to improving communities’ health, Presbyterian Healthcare Services provides support for cooking classes, farmers’ market incentive programs, a mobile farmers’ market and community gardens.
And in February 2016, Presbyterian began offering another option to connect the community to healthy food. Inside its four hospitals—Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis, Socorro General Hospital, and Presbyterian Hospital and Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital (both in Albuquerque)—children have access to a free, healthy meal or snack any day of the week. They do not need to qualify for the program; it is open to all throughout the year. As of Sept. 1, 2017, the hospitals had provided more than 15,200 meals.
The meal program is a partnership between Presbyterian Healthcare Services, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Southwest Region and the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department. The USDA operates the federally funded, state-administered Child and Adult Care Food Program during the school year and the Summer Food Service Program in the summer to serve healthy meals to kids and teens in low-income areas.
Meal Program Hours:
· Presbyterian Hospital
o Daily: meal, 1 p.m.–7 p.m., snack, 11 a.m.–1 p.m.
· Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital
o Monday–Friday: meal, 11 a.m.–1:30 p.m., snack, 1 p.m.–4:30 p.m.
· Socorro General Hospital
o Monday-Friday: meal, 9 a.m.– 1:30 p.m., snack, 1:30 a.m.–4 p.m.
o Saturday and Sunday: meal, 9 a.m.- 1:30 p.m.
· Plains Regional Medical Center
o Daily: meal, 11 a.m.– 7 p.m.
Grow the Growers in Bernalillo County
Farm Training and Business Acceleration
Grow the Growers is a comprehensive, multi-year farm training and business acceleration program designed to attract new and emerging farmers into professional food production. Bernalillo County and its program partners (Agri-Cultura Network, McCune Charitable Foundation, Thornburg Foundation and New Mexico State University) seek to strengthen the local food economy by nurturing the next generation of food entrepreneurs through providing educational support in the form of workshops, in-field and on-farm internships, paid stipends for full-time interns, small-business mentoring and access to affordable land and water.
The Grow the Growers program is based at the historic Gutiérrez-Hubbell House History and Cultural Center in the South Valley. In order to learn from diverse farm production and business operation methods, Grow the Growers interns also work with partner farms to enhance their educational experiences.
According to the county, between 80 and 90 percent of fresh fruit and vegetables consumed in the Albuquerque area are grown outside of New Mexico. Despite its rich agrarian history, the South Valley is home to many families in need of better access to locally grown, healthy food. Food grown by Grow the Growers interns is distributed to 350 local families through La Cosecha CSA, a community supported agriculture initiative of Agri-Cultura. Sixty-five percent of families receiving weekly food shares do so at subsidized rates. Proceeds are returned to the Grow the Growers program to support future cohorts of the farm training and business acceleration program. For more information, call 505.314.0399 or email email@example.com