DeLaveaga Elementary School in Santa Cruz became Second Harvest’s 30th Passion For Produce site with the certification of 18 volunteer Nutrition Ambassadors. Their achievement was celebrated during a graduation ceremony held at the school on February 12th.
Second Harvest Food Bank’s Passion for Produce program, designed to serve farm workers and other local low-income households, offers nutrition lessons and healthy recipe cooking demonstrations along with market-style fresh produce distributions twice monthly at accessible locations, such as schools, churches, community centers, and farm worker housing complexes. Over 300 trained Nutrition Ambassador volunteers provide bilingual peer education and encouragement for healthy lifestyle changes, and help distribute over one million pounds of fresh produce every year to local families in need.
The program currently offers 700 nutrition classes annually throughout Santa Cruz County. Over 90% of participants have increased their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and adopted healthier cooking habits. Passion for Produce has been recognized as a model peer education program by UC Berkeley’s Atkins Center for Weight and Health.
“We are so honored and humbled to be here tonight because each of you stood up to help your community,” said Willy Elliott-McCrea, Chief Executive Officer at Second Harvest, as he welcomed the group. “You are all leaders in the struggle for food justice. You are showing people that they have the power to be healthy and successful.”
“Passion For Produce is a true partnership,” he continued. “Local farmers contribute produce, Second Harvest’s Nutrition Programs team works hard to certify Nutrition Ambassadors and get each site up and running. The Nutrition Ambassadors contribute their time and enthusiasm for helping to make their communities healthier.”
Second Harvest’s Director of Community Programs, Teresa Moran, was pleased with the strong sense of commitment these volunteers brought to the program. “I am very proud of this group because everyone showed up for all the classes without having to be reminded. They came with a great attitude and desire to share what they have learned.”
As an added benefit, children that attended the classes along with their parents proved to be good listeners. “The kids have been bringing what they learned back to the classroom and sharing it with their classmates,” said Angela Meeker, Principal at DeLaveaga Elementary.
As everyone enjoyed a healthy dinner of chicken, rice, salad and strawberries, the Nutrition Ambassadors shared their thoughts on the program. A few of their comments are included below.
“My family has changed our lifestyle since starting these classes. We read the labels every time we go to the store. I am very excited because I have been able to teach my family and my co-workers. “
“I am student at Cabrillo and often miss meals. But now that I know how important it is to eat healthy food, I am going to be paying more attention.”
“ I have learned to use less oil when I am cooking. Instead of frying tacos, I am steaming them and they taste just as good. I have been sharing them with my co-workers and they like them too.”
“The information we have learned in these classes is going to help us keep our children healthy. We will save money by preventing illnesses such as diabetes.”