Cardenas Market and county health teach healthy eating habits

EL CENTRO – The Imperial County Public Health Department, together with local agencies, partnered with Cardenas Market grocery store Friday to encourage dietary transition towards a healthier food lifestyle among the Latino population.


Jorge Torres is program supervisor of ICPHD’s Healthy Eating & Active Living program. “We are celebrating Latino Health Awareness Month,” he said. “Our focus today is fruits and vegetables. Other agencies will cover health topics such as diabetes prevention, high blood pressure, and the emergency food assistance program.” 


Participating agencies included Catholic Charities, Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, the El Centro Regional Medical Center, Imperial County Public Health Department, Imperial Valley Food Bank, and Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District.


Each agency gave out information about health, nutrition and recipes as well as showing how to pick produce, read nutrition fact labels, pick items with less fat, and shop with health decisions in mind. 


According to Torres, the program hosting Friday’s event was “CA Champions for Change,” which is part of the California Department of Public Health’s “Be Better” campaign. “Be Better,” Torres said, focuses on the Latino population in Imperial Valley in making little incremental changes to diet. Nothing drastic changes, he said. Instead, it incorporates fruits, vegetables, and limiting the amount of sugary beverages consumed. 


Torres said, 78 percent of adults and 44 percent of children in Imperial County are overweight or obese.


Saturday morning at Cardenas Market was bustling with grocery shoppers pushing and weaving their carts along aisle sections of the store along the fruit and vegetable section, and the meat and poultry, milk and cheese, and bakery, in the small eatery section. 


“We chose Cardenas because today is the first day of the month. We thought that we were going to get a lot of traffic at Cardenas which is one of the biggest stores in Imperial County. This is our annual, and biggest event for the program,” Torres said. 


Guided tours of the Cardenas Market in El Centro were part of the healthy promotion campaign, and Gilberto Martinez is the assistant manager. “We are walking customers through the store and showing them items that they can eat healthy,” Martinez said. 


Mireya Diaz, nutrition education program manager with the Imperial Valley Food Bank, was one of several tour guides who each carried a “My Plate” prop. The plate is color coded into the five food groups recommended by USDA dietary guidelines — fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy — and served as a topic guideline for the tour guides. 


Meanwhile, at the entrance of the store, health education specialists Vanessa Martinez and Lucy Hernandez stood behind a table serving free samples of healthy snacks to grocery shoppers. 


“We prepared a healthy torta recipe,” Martinez said. “It includes wheat bread, chicken, lettuce, guacamole, radishes, and onions. We also provide infused water which has mint, lemon and cucumbers. It has less sugar, which is a healthier option than a soda or drink filled with sugar.” In all, the team gave out 200 torta servings and several gallons of infused water. 


“Everyone is really excited. It seems that people here are going to make healthier changes in their lifestyle for the Latino Health Awareness Month,” Martinez said. 


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