Occidental Wins $500,000 to Boost Healthy Food Access for LA Kids and Families
Occidental College's Urban & Environmental Policy Institute has received a $500,000 grant to improve healthy food access for Los Angeles's low-income preschoolers and their families.
The five-year grant from First 5 L.A., a child advocacy and grant-making agency, will fund an advocacy, educational and policy project that will ramp up the availability of locally grown, affordable fruits and vegetables. Strategies include mobile "green" vending carts, preschool wellness policies promoting school gardens and healthy snacks, and WIC voucher redemption at farmers' markets.
"Childhood obesity is at an epidemic level, and even more so among low-income children and children of color, including those under 5 years of age," says Robert Gottlieb, UEPI director and Oxy's Henry R. Luce Professor of Urban Environmental Studies. "Many overweight young children will remain obese throughout adulthood, posing an increased risk for weight-related health conditions such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.
"Our project focuses on changing circumstances that contribute to the obesity epidemic among kids by increasing healthy food access in communities with the greatest need."
It's the latest effort from UEPI to promote and increase access of fresh, local and healthy food to low-income infants and children and their families in underserved central, south and southeastern Los Angeles.
Past healthy-food projects include a Farm-to-WIC program aimed at improving access to fresh healthy produce for low-income mothers and children who participate in the federally funded Women, Infants, and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program. UEPI was also instrumental in launching the national Farm to School program and the Farm to PreSchool program, which brings farm-fresh food and nutrition education to childcare and preschool programs in Southern California and Hawaii.
In March, UEPI will begin a multi-step process of analyzing existing gaps in food and wellness policies, convening preschool administrators, farmers' market operators and other stakeholders to develop policies that address disparities, and providing technical assistance to preschools and other partners for policy implementation. At the conclusion of the project, UEPI will evaluate and disseminate findings throughout greater Los Angeles so other communities may replicate successful components of the project.
Occidental is one of 13 local organizations that recently received a total of $5.5 million from the First 5 L.A. Commission to enact long-term change in healthcare, childcare and other issues affecting young children and their families. First 5 L.A. is a taxpayer-funded organization created by California voters to invest tobacco tax revenue in programs to improve the lives of Los Angeles County's children.