Melanie Zendejas was in the fourth grade at Starlight Elementary when Joel Campos from Second Harvest inspired her to eat healthier. It was in his nutrition education classes where she learned the importance of limiting sugar and salt, eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and exercising.
Melanie wanted to lose weight and she knew that the rest of her family could be eating healthier too, so she encouraged her mother, Patricia, and grandmother, Maria, to come to the presentations. All three generations have completed Second Harvest’s six-week Nutrition Ambassador certification.
As a result, Melanie has lowered her cholesterol and both she and her mother have lost weight. A seventh grader now, Melanie runs long distance on the cross-country team at school. Patricia says the whole family is involved in shopping for different types of food and cooking meals based on what they learned in class.
“The doctor recommended a nutritionist but we couldn’t afford it,” Maria explains. “This program showed us how to be healthy and we put it into practice.” For example, they went from eating regular tortillas to whole wheat and started cooking with olive oil. The family is walking more. Even Melanie’s seven-year old sibling has gotten into the act, telling their mom, “We need to drink more water.”
Patricia is proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, “She’s a very responsible girl,” Patricia says. “She takes care of her grandparents and encourages them to eat better.”
Melanie’s grandma, Maria, goes way back with Second Harvest. She volunteered with her older daughter, Juana, on the hotline some years ago, so when Melanie asked her to attend the classes she was happy to join her granddaughter. “I want to help,” says Maria. “I like doing this, it makes me feel good about myself.”
Maria said it was valuable to learn about portion control and limiting carbohydrates, while upping their consumption of fresh produce. Her husband, Francisco, who is on dialysis, wouldn’t eat vegetables before and now he asks for them. All his test results are good. “See,” she tells him, “I am taking care of you.”
All three women feel good because not only have they improved the health of their own family, their training is enabling them to give back by managing food distributions at Starlight and sharing the important lessons they’ve learned with others.