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State Officials And Local Grocers Pair Up To Encourage Healthier Eating

Evening Edition

Aired 5/23/13 on KPBS News.

California officials are working with grocers in San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood to encourage healthier eating – a rare treat for a community where unhealthy foods are easier to find.

— At the Northgate supermarket, Blanca Melendrez oversees Perkins elementary students playing vegetable bingo.

"When you have four in one line, this way or across or diagonal, what are you going to yell?" she asks the children.

"Bingo!" shout the children, who are on a field trip at the Barrio Logan grocery store.

Melendrez works with the Network for a Healthy California.

"We work with over 700 retailors throughout the state to encourage them to offer healthy options for families in low income neighborhoods," she says.

According to Melendrez, research shows that engaging a community is the best way to teach healthy habits. Here, that includes featuring healthy recipes with a Latin lineage.

"Today we are featuring egg and nopales – eggs and cactus," Melendrez says. "So, how can you still eat what you're used to, you know, it's your tradition, but how can you make it healthy and then how can you make it available in your neighborhood?"

"They are incorporating it in a way that is healthy, but it still keeps with a lot of the traditions."

City Council's David Alvarez grew up here, and he says the new Northgate market can have a huge impact on the neighborhood's waistlines.

"The next step, once you have access to the appropriate types of foods, and groceries and fruits and vegetables, is how do you incorporate that into your daily life and into your diet?" he says.

Encouraging consumption of healthy food could also provide an economic kick for the state's farmers. Studies show if everyone eats their fruits and veggies, that would pump 360 million dollars into the state's economy.

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