Health fair addresses issues affecting low-income families

City College of San Francisco hosted the Growing Healthy Kids community health fair on Saturday, Nov. 16 at its Mission Campus on Valencia Street.

More than 400 parents, children, and child care providers attended the event, which featured health information booths from more than 30 local businesses and organizations.

Participants enjoyed nutritious food tastings, health screenings, free farmers market produce and physical activity classes, including yoga and Zumba.

The event was organized by the Children’s Council of San Francisco as an initiative to address the health concerns of children living in the Mission and to provide resources to improve their nutrition and physical activity practices.

“We have a lot of kids whose level of age versus weight are not proportionate,” said Theresa Arroyo, Children Services Director at the Mission’s YMCA campus.

In San Francisco, 31 percent of low-income children ages 0-5 were overweight or obese in 2011-2012, according to the Healthy Apple Award Program.

“Through our program HEPA, we are teaching kids healthy-eating habits and are doing strategic planning for the next three years to make sure that every child is healthier.”

Programs like Leah’s Pantry also presented alternative nutritional options for families by promoting its new project, funded through a SNAP-Ed Innovative Projects grant.

The project launched EatFresh.org, an engaging website created for Calfresh participants but is also open to the public.

The site is loaded with easy to prepare and inexpensive recipes that include nutrition and chronic disease prevention messaging.

Their hope is that families will find ways to eat fresh, whole foods on a tight budget.

“They are low income people so food and security is very important,” said Vivian Tse, nutrition educator for Leah’s Pantry.

The event not only highlighted nutritional issues among children, but it also addressed environmental threats that impact their holistic health.

“Due to the old houses in San Francisco, young children are being exposed to lead and dust, and they ingest it,” said Cynthia Melgoza, health educator for SFDPH’s department of Environmental Health. “It is a huge concern that has devastating effects on children long term, which can eventually lead to learning disabilities.”

The city is offering residents, property owners, contractors and real estate professionals lead testing and cleaning services for free through its lead free program.

The Mission is the district with one of the highest numbers of lead poisoning said Amelia Martinez, family success coach at MEDA.

“We are trying to make that number go down.”

The San Francisco Department of the Environment also came out to bring awareness about the importance of educating children to be practice sustainability and to care for their environment.

“We go into schools with our program From Food to Flowers, and we teach kids about compost and the process of how it turns from food to a flower. We also train lunch room monitors to help send things to the trash and recycling,” said Rachel Pomerantz, education coordinator.

“The main theme we want to teach them is that we can make an impact on nature.”

Near its closing, the fair held its first annual Healthy Apple Award Ceremony, which recognized 31 childcare providers for meeting at a bronze, silver, or gold level in Nutrition and Physical activityHealth-Fair_web

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