By Taylor Engle
La Habra Journal
“Move More, Eat Healthy La Habra,” an initiative developed to improve the overall health and living of the La Habra community, has seen great results since its start in November 2014. The city has collaborated with the La Habra Community Collaborative, local college universities, Whittier PIH, and St. Jude Medical Center to create a five-year plan to develop healthy habits that are easily accessible and affordable to the community.
According to last year’s fitness gram, which measures the physical fitness of students in elementary school and junior high, La Habra was ranked as the third worst in Orange County.
“When this collaborative team started out, we voted on three objectives to focus on fixing: teen pregnancy, juvenile crime, and child obesity,” said Executive Director of the La Habra Collaborative Sandi Baltes. “We branched off into teams to focus on each objective, which is how the ‘Move More, Eat Healthy La Habra’ campaign began.”
The campaign has taken off with extraordinary results in La Habra. Since its start, La Habra has hosted 21 healthy lifestyle classes and 10 community events (three of which took place at schools) to spread the word about healthy living.
The La Habra High School nursing program volunteered at the Citrus Fair and various health fairs passing out forms to encourage residents to commit to certain health and fitness goals for the year. La Habra received 1,776 healthy lifestyle goals from residents. Additionally, 1,444 residents have participated in the healthy living events and classes.
Thus far, classes have been taught by Baltes, Elite Fitness owner and Collaborative chairman Rebecca French, and local health and nursing college students to educate parents on nutrition while simultaneously providing children with fitness classes. The classes have been done at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Friends of Family Health Center, the Children’s Museum, and the city’s parks.
Excellent turnout and feedback from the classes encouraged the “Move More, Eat Healthy” campaign to be infused in La Habra’s Summer Youth Program. The kids’ summer Nutrition Program, available for children ages 4-13, sets goals every week related to exercise, eating the proper amount of fruits and vegetables, drinking enough water, and reading.
“Our main emphasis is literacy, but we always tie it into nutrition,” said Co-director of La Habra’s Parks and Recreation Summer Camp Nutrition Program Cindy Krueger. “One week we were reading a book about a bunny, so then we went to a garden and picked carrots and made smoothies. Our lessons always go hand in hand with nutrition.”
The camp has already seen progress and change in the participating children, who are becoming more aware of making healthy decisions
“We’re starting to see kids choose watermelon as a snack instead of Cheetos,” said Co-director of the program Marie Brown. “The idea of ‘healthy body, healthy mind,’ makes it so important for literacy to be tied in with nutrition. Our goal is to see more education on nutrition and fitness in schools.”
Along with the progress that has been made for healthy living in a classroom setting is the fitness centers that have been installed at Guadalupe and Montwood Parks. La Habra was among four cities chosen by St. Jude for health grants. So far, the city has used the grant to build community gardens for vegetables and fruits, install fitness equipment, and hire a consultant to acquire more grants.
“The city recently received another grant from St. Jude for a traffic plan,” said Recreations Manager David DeLeon. “We’re planning to make adjustments that will allow for more biker and walking paths.”
The collaborators at St. Jude are very impressed with La Habra’s passion and commitment to the health campaign. La Habra has been recognized for two out of three designations with the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) campaign, which recognizes cities in Orange County that adopt healthy eating and living in their community and is in progress for the third.
“I tell other cities about La Habra’s progress,” said St. Jude Healthy Communities Outreach Director Barry Ross. “Our goal is that the healthy choice is the easy choice for residents. La Habra is definitely an example.”
St. Jude Medical Center has record of park usage before the exercise equipment installations and is hoping to see a great improvement over the next few months. According to surveys conducted by St. Jude, La Habra has a 70% rate of residents who go to their local park at least once a week. The community gardens and equipment are intended to improve that percentage.
“Move More, Eat Healthy La Habra” has seen great influence throughout the community and has even more plans for the future. The University of Health Sciences plans to provide a fitness expo in January 2016 along with other physical training in La Habra parks. Additionally, there will be a city Variety Show taking place on September 19. Residents are encouraged to contact Martha Lester at (562) 6972762 for more information on participation.
Finally, the healthy campaign encourages readers to make a fitness goal and write to us here at the Journal describing your progress. You can choose one of the following goals: drink more water, eat five fruits or vegetables a day, or exercise 30 minutes a day, or make a goal of your own. The “Move More, Eat Healthy La Habra” campaign wants to see nothing but progress from residents in their healthy lifestyle decisions.