April 2006

Contact: Chris Davis/Marjorie Wass (805) 687-3322

California Endowment Fund and Peoples’ Self-Help Housing
Combat Obesity in Latino Children

Santa Maria, CA, April 3, 2006—Peoples’ Self-Help Housing has received $50,000 from the California Endowment’s Local Opportunities Fund to develop “Sano Para La Vida” (Fit for Life), a program on obesity prevention for low-income children of the 247 families who reside at two Peoples’ Self-Help Housing complexes: River View Townhomes and Estates in Guadalupe, and Los Adobes de Maria I and II apartments in Santa Maria. The program focuses on healthy eating and exercise and, because the program is offered where the children live, the entire family is encouraged to participate.

Peoples’ Self-Help Housing teachers, who work at the Education Enhancement Program Centers at the two complexes, found many of the children in their programs are obese. Many children eat large quantities of junk food, drink sodas, spend too many hours watching television and playing video games. Many children struggle academically, and their teachers believe that poor diets and lack of exercise influence the children’s low standings in school. Since Peoples’ Self-Help Housing currently works with the children daily through the Education Enhancement Program, they have added this health component to the existing program, focusing on healthy eating habits and regular exercise for the children and their families.

Every Friday the Education Enhancement Program focuses on health education, and exercise is encouraged daily. Teachers provide incentives for those children who follow through with assigned activities. The curriculum was developed by Peoples’ Health and Community Services (HCS) Director with help from the University of California Cooperative Extension, Community Health Centers of the Central Coast and the Gold Coast Collaborative, and the teachers at each site. (The HCS Director has a master’s degree in education and is a Certified Health Education Specialist with 20 years experience developing health programs.)

Los Adobes de Maria and River View have onsite health screening facilities. All children who have significant weight problems are monitored by the onsite Community Health Centers of the Central Coast (CHCCC) medical providers and screened for diabetes and other health issues. These children will receive follow-up visits, as deemed necessary by the CHCCC medical providers.

Additionally the “Sano Para La Vida” program includes:

A curriculum on healthy eating is presented to the children weekly. Topics covered include the food pyramid, the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, the role of fat in the diet, fast foods, the importance of drinking milk, and how to avoid excess sugar in the diet. Lessons will be age-appropriate, short, and repeated frequently. Art and science projects will also be designed to include a healthy eating theme.
Peoples’ Self-Help also provides monthly cooking classes for the children and their moms. The children’s classes focus on healthy snacks, using the American Cancer Society’s Kids First Cookbook as a textbook and teaching kids how to make healthy food for them. The classes for moms focus on recipes they can make for the entire family.
Pedometers are provided for each child and track numbers of miles walked. Incentives given for most miles walked will encourage a friendly competition between the 2 housing sites.
Activities like bike riding, jump rope, basketball and running are encouraged on a daily basis, and kids receive recognition for their efforts.
Parents have been recruited from each complex to coach a soccer team and a basketball team. The resident sites practice separately and will come together in the summer for a tournament.
Peoples' Self-Help Housing is an award winning non-profit organization with 35 years of experience developing affordable housing and providing community services for low-income and special needs households. With over 1000 homes completed and over 1200 rental units developed, Peoples' Self-Help Housing continues to strengthen its reputation and leadership position as the premiere affordable housing and community developer on the Central Coast. Peoples' Self-Help Housing is committed to developing vibrant neighborhoods, building attractive, high quality housing and providing innovative community services, so their residents have every possible opportunity to succeed in life. Visit our website at www.pshhc.org for more information.