More than 120 Spanish-speaking parents of Pacoima schoolchildren this week will celebrate the successful completion of an eight-week basic health and nutrition course taught by community leaders.
The program began last October, when 15 "promotoras," or lay teachers, recruited from parent and community centers enrolled in a 20-hour training course developed by the FamilyCare Healthy Kids Collaborative in Pacoima.
Funded in part by United Way's Northeast Communities Action Project, the promotoras then taught health and nutrition classes to friends and neighbors from the Pacoima community.
"In our area, many people simply don't know how to go shopping," said Isabel Martinez, parent center director at Pacoima Elementary School.
"I include myself. My mother, for example, never made a shopping list of what kinds of nutritious foods to buy for balanced meals. That's one thing we taught parents."
Parents also learned how to blend vitamin-packed fruits and vegetables into meals "without the kids even noticing," Martinez said. "It's as simple as blending fresh tomatoes with rice. And teaching that the most important foods to eat include cereals and grains."
Over the weeks, Martinez said she saw a change in the attitudes of instructors and parents attending the classes.
"The parents have grown so much," she said. "They started changing the way they dress, the way they talk. The classes made them feel important."
Graduation begins today and runs through Friday at sites around Pacoima, including Montague Street Elementary School, San Fernando Gardens Community Service Center, Maclay Middle School, Telfair Avenue Elementary School, Pacoima Elementary School and Vaughn Next Century Learning Center.
For more information, call (818) 834-1485.