The Aetna Foundation has awarded a $25,000 grant to The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. (CHCF) to help Latino families in the Bronx adopt healthy eating habits and exercise regularly. The funds support “Healthy Living,” the organization’s nutrition and fitness program for students and their families at P.S. 279 Captain Manuel Rivera, Jr., in the Fordham Heights neighborhood.
CHCF’s “Healthy Living” combines Latino culture with fun activities for the whole family, such as dancing, cooking classes and games. The free 10-week classes meet Saturdays at P.S./M.S. 279 at 2100 Walton Avenue.
Elba Montalvo, president and CEO of CHCF, says that “Healthy Living” aims to reverse high obesity rates and diet-related health problems among Latino families in the Bronx. Program participants, she notes, often suffer from diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure.
“Our participants work long hours, often at non-traditional times, which puts a strain on them and makes planning healthy meals and exercise a challenge,” said Montalvo. “Buying healthy food can be especially difficult. Full-service supermarkets are scarce. Many families have very limited incomes and are forced to choose cheap, non-nutritious food, resulting in both malnutrition and obesity. ‘Healthy Living’ shows another way. We appreciate Aetna Foundation’s support.”
Sharon Dalton, vice president of the Aetna Foundation and director of its regional grant making, said, “Our mission is to promote health and wellness, particularly in underserved communities. By bringing together families and incorporating Hispanic traditions, CHCF’s program is a great way to make healthy new habits stick.”
Since CHCF launched “Healthy Living” in 2004, more than 800 people have taken classes. The program’s culture-based approach uses Latino traditions and values, such as traditional foods, Spanish seasonings, promenading in the plaza, dancing and music. The program includes field trips to farmers’ markets, tips for grocery shopping on a budget, and cooking classes that recreate favorite traditional dishes with less fat or sugar. The program is run by bilingual, bicultural staff members.