Building a Healthier Long Beach
From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 4
By Ivanna Lastra
Slowly but surely, Long Beach has been securing a reputation as one of the healthiest cities in Los Angeles County. In recent years there has been some significant stride in Long Beach legislation and campaigns aimed at promoting healthy living throughout the city. The majority of these initiatives were developed for improving the health of Long Beach families, by creating resources that are easily accessible. Affirming the health conscious efforts made in the community, bicycling.com named Long Beach on their list of “Top 50 Most Bike-friendly Cities.”
There are plenty of resources available to assist Long Beach families in their pursuit of acquiring active lifestyles and nutritious diets. From an early age, kids are equipped with the knowledge and tools to make healthy food choices. However, a recent study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that 60 percent of children in LA eat fast food at least once a week and 57 percent are not getting their recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The study also showed that children in low-income households are at a higher risk of acquiring poor eating habits, like consuming more soda.
Long Beach Health Educator Robin Sinks feels that the health education students get inside the classroom must be incorporated into their lives in order to be effective. “It’s not enough for kids to know what to eat but they have to be able to apply it to their life,” Sinks said.
Councilmember Steven Neal of the 9th district recognizes that in order to have a healthier population, a change first has to be made in the community. The city’s most recent health improvement project was aimed at renovating Coolidge park. The terms of the project included installing a new fitness exercise equipment station, revamped basketball courts and a new playground. The park initiative was funded by the LA Clippers, the California Endowment and Kaiser Permanente. The grand reopening of the park was Tuesday, Feb. 11. Clippers players Blake Griffin, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and Jared Dudley made a surprise appearance at the event and played ball with local Long Beach students.
In a recent article, Councilmember Neal spoke about the progress being made in the city. “These partnerships are helping to make North Long Beach a healthier community in many ways. They also reflect the spirit of our Uptown Renaissance and help move our neighborhoods forward,” Neal said.
To further facilitate the transition of a healthier Long Beach, the healthy corner store initiative kicked off in 2009. This has been an ongoing project to provide more nutritious food and beverage options in local mini-marts and corner stores. The program especially targets areas that have the highest obesity rates. “We wanted to do something to help alleviate that community’s challenges. It makes it easier for individuals of low-income communities to engage in healthy behaviors,” Neal said.
Concerned about the obesity epidemic hitting Long Beach students outside of the classroom, Councilmember Neal proposed a new policy in 2011. The policy would make restrictions on the contents of city vending machines. Specifically, it would ban sugary snacks and drinks, replacing them with more nutritious options. “We should try to line ourselves as much as we can with the school districts,” Neal said. With an 8-1 vote from the city council, the policy was passed.
Aside from the changes made in the community to facilitate healthy living, there are a number of resources available for Long Beach parents and their kids. The Healthy Active Long Beach program provides online forums and hosts events that make it fun and easy for families to stay fit and nutritious together. The Champions for Change website is an informative resource guide. It includes a comprehensive list of information about produce, including the health benefits of each item and recipe ideas as well.
The Junior League of Long Beach Kids in the Kitchen will be hosting their annual Rethink Your Drink event Saturday, March 8. The event is a family-friendly health fair with music, games and lots outdoor activities. For more information contact the Junior League of Long Beach at (562) 985-6400.