Some of our young staff who started in our programs 8 years ago now have their own small children. Last week, Karen Ramirez took her daughter, Renesmee, along with one of our growers, Jonathan Galindez, to drop off produce to Cruzita's Deli and Cafe. Cruzita's has committed to supporting RootDown by regularly purchasing our produce - locally grown fruits and veggies now make their way into Cruzita's delicious menu items and back into the bellies of the next generation of young people in South Los Angeles.
RootDown LA is taking on diabetes! Thanks to funding from Kaiser Permanente’s West LA Community Benefit Program, our young staff members got an opportunity to develop a needs assessment and trial new healthy food/cooking lessons that specifically support folks dealing with diabetes. We surveyed people living within blocks of our WECAN Youth-driven Neighborhood Food System site, including diabetic patients at the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center; they told us they get good information on diabetes from the clinic, but still felt challenged to shift their daily diets.
We are putting together a more comprehensive report, detailing the impact of our lessons on class participants’ food preferences and sense of self efficacy in preparing great tasting, low glycemic meals. In the meantime, we are enjoying learning the life and health stories of our class participants, and are grateful they will let us share them with you.
My name is Maria Prado and I am from Guatemala. I found out that I had diabetes recently after I immigrated to the United States 12 years ago. At the time I was under a lot of stress and that took me to hospital, where I was diagnosed with diabetes. I was immediately put on insulin and a lot of medications.
My life was great before I got diabetes. I used to eat like a normal person and treated myself to sweets when I craved them. Now, I can’t really give myself that luxury. The first months were the worst, I remember crying day and night because of the drastic changes I had to make. Coping with the fact I was ill in an unknown country and changing my diet were the most difficult phases I had to overcome. Although I had my husband with me, I felt like I was battling this alone. I would often feel I was alone. I would cook separate meals for him, and my mood swings due to medication would often be the reason for our arguments.
Since I came to the St. Johns Clinic my everyday routine has improved. I like the environment of the space, the workers are very friendly and the convenience of having focus groups like this at the same place where we receive our consultations helps a lot of us of the older generation. By attending the Wednesday diabetic classes I’ve learned so much new information about my illness and things that can help me continue living my life with diabetes. For example, by changing my eating habits I am now completely off insulin and control my sugar with my diet. Being off insulin has given me confidence to continue to try new things that I find interesting.
I am very happy RootDown returned to offer the cooking and nutrition classes they promised. I’ve learned so much. My favorite part was learning about where our food comes from and watching the cooking demonstration led by Andres. I wish I was able to participate more but my bones hurt often. Overall the food serve was very delicious and healthy. I even tried celery which I said I didn’t like but it turns out I do.
My name is Ignacio Prado. I am from Mexico, Michoacán. I do not have diabetes but I am here to support my wife Maria, who is a participant in St. John’s Wednesday diabetes classes.
Being married to someone with diabetes is sort of like having it yourself. I’ve been with Maria through it all - the ups, the downs, the ugly and the nice. My wife is a warrior and seeing her put so much effort in conforming to what the doctors were requested of her made me love her twice as much. It is very sad to see the one you love in hospital beds, see them in pain and drastically changing their attitude on life because of medications. I often wished we could switch places thinking I could have been stronger than her, but in reality she’s tougher than me.
Like Maria mentioned, I was not the best husband at times. I was not used to eating “healthy meals”, meals that were vegetable heavy. I often requested to be made something else to eat, something with meats and tortillas even though Maria couldn’t eat that. I used to think her illness was not my fault, but neither was it hers.
I started to support my wife more when I accompanied her to one of the St. John’s diabetes classes. It was then when I realized I didn’t want to go through what these others were and that I want to avoid getting ill. Later that afternoon we went home and we had a long talk. I told her to stop worrying about making two meals – I was going to eat what she was having and we started being more active.
I am now like a private nurse. I remind Maria to take her medicine, I attend all her doctor checkups with her, and have made all my Wednesdays available to come with her to these classes. I do this to remind her she is not alone in this process and to learn myself.
My favorite part of the RootDown LA classes has been is that they talk about different topics that are not necessarily clinic related. My favorite class was the orange lesson. It was very eye opening to think about where our money goes when we buy store-bought orange juice instead of making it at home, and what the real quality of that product is. I also like that the RootDown educators are very young and funny. The food has been delicious and I’ve learned that you can sneak more vegetables, like bell peppers, into Pico de Gallo and still have it taste good.
We've been working for years to address the challenges of growing in small, non-adjacent #SouthLA gardens. This year, we took a hard look at the fact that we've been GARDENING, not farming, and now that's about to change. This week, we started tearing out the garden beds adjacent to our new FarmPOD - a central place for us to propagate plants and prep produce for distribution back through our cooking classes, Cruzita's Deli and Cafe, and our pop-up farm stand sales. We've brought on a new member, Joseph Wolf, to our Food Production Team. He's an experienced farmer and rancher and is enrolled in Cal Poly's Plant Science's Dept., with which RootDown has a working partnership in our efforts to train youth in urban agriculture. Keep your eyes peeled as our first FARM emerges in the coming month!