- Author: Ricardo A. Vela
The CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Program, administered through UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE), works with ethnic communities to transform their environment by implementing a community garden. UCCE created three gardens in partnership with community organizations in an equal number of neighborhoods located in this populous county.
In the first one, adults and minors dug and planted seeds and various vegetable plants in a community garden located in Riverside's popular Latino neighborhood. The vegetable garden has brought people in this low-resource community together to address healthy food access and learn about healthy eating and nutrition.
Gonzalo Rodríguez, an active member of the Community Settlement Association, said, "We planted pepper plants, tomatoes and little seeds. Vegetables are an excellent food for us, and another thing that keeps children off the streets and helps them understand the process while having fun taking care of their plants."
The garden in this thriving Latino community has grown over the years and is now a place for families to get together to celebrate healthy living. Educating food-insecure families of different ethnicity, the importance of having a vegetable garden, and how to grow your own food is a goal of the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Program, and UCCE in Riverside County.
The second garden is located on what used to be a vacant lot in the Riverside Faith Temple under Pastor Duane Sims' supervision, who spoke about his vision. "I would like to see it a complete food force, a source of food that won't cost anybody anything, and something for people that don't have anything to do, a place to put their hands in the dirt and accomplish something."
These community gardens collaborate with several programs from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and partner with ethnic organizations to combat the poor eating habits that result in obesity, chronic diseases, and sometimes premature death.
"We're trying to get low-income families to eat more vegetables, and the best way to do this is to encourage them to plant their own fruits and vegetables in an orchard, and that's why we're promoting community gardens," said Chutima Ganthavorn, UCCE nutrition specialist in Riverside County.
Adela Torres and her children are involved in the project with the Community Settlement Association in Riverside. "It's beneficial for the children because they are fresh fruits or things that we can have at home," she said.
Ganthavorn reaffirmed the UCCE and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC's commitment to helping ethnic communities live a healthier diet. "We know that many people's diets today are fast food and soft drinks, and they are not consuming fruits and vegetables. We need to eat almost nine portions of fruits and vegetables a day, and most of us aren't getting close to that level. We are trying to encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables because they contain many nutrients and many health benefits," she said.
At UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, we make recommendations based on science. We are now joining with many organizations to present factual information about the COVID-19 vaccines to help people make informed decisions about being vaccinated.
Below are facts and resources about COVID-19.
Myths and Facts (UC Davis)
Fact Check: Are there microchips in vaccines? No.
Fact Check: Is there a sterility risk? No.
Fact Check: Are there fetal cells in vaccines? No.
Fact Check: Were vaccines developed too fast to be safe? No.
Join these famous people in being vaccinated:
- President Joe Biden
- Vice President Kamala Harris
- Former President George Bush
- Former Vice President Mike Pence
- Journalist Stephanie Elam
- Dr. Anthony Fauci
- UN Secretary-General António Guterres
- UC President Michael Drake
- Celebrity Martha Stewart
More on why vaccination is safe and important:
- Sadly, Jan. 21, 2021 was the day when the COVID death toll in the U.S. reached, and then exceeded, the 405,399 Americans who died in World War II. On Feb. 22, deaths in the U.S. due to COVID-19 passed 500,000.
- While many are concerned about the vaccines, even back in December, communities were growing in confidence that the vaccine is safe. By December 2020, numbers intending to get the vaccine had already grown to above 60%. (Pew Research December 2020)
- Centers for Disease Control: How to Protect Yourself and Others
- California Department of Public Health Covid guidance (CDPH)
- Make vaccination appointments, check your eligibility, or sign up for alerts at https://myturn.ca.gov/
- For more links and resources, see COVID-19 Vaccines
View a video here in which UC President Michael Drake, a medical doctor, speaks on the importance of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.
- Author: Ricardo A. Vela
Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15 and continues until October 15. The purpose of the celebration is to recognize the contributions and vital presence of Hispanics and Latin Americans in the United States.
President Lyndon Johnson first approved Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and expanded to a full month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Finally, Hispanic Heritage Month was officially enacted as a law on August 17, 1988.
Why is Hispanic Heritage Month held from mid-September to mid-October? It was chosen in this way to reserve two significant dates for Spanish-speaking countries. On the one hand, Independence Day is celebrated in countries such as Mexico, Chile, and five Central American nations (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica).
Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza was commemorated, a date celebrated more by Italian-Americans than Spanish-speaking immigrants.
Hispanics and Latinos in the United States are getting stronger every day; it is undeniable. But they are more recognized for their culinary richness and the attractiveness of their rhythms, such as Mariachi, salsa, cumbia, mambo, and merengue, than for their essential contributions the professional level. Although, at the national level, there are all kinds of professionals who, with their work, have contributed to the cultural, social, and economic wealth of this country.
Hispanics who have helped improve our lives range from an astronaut to a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Luis Walter Alvarez, born in Mexico and naturalized American, was an experimental physicist, inventor, and professor who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1968.
Franklin Ramón Chang Díaz is a Costa Rican mechanical engineer, naturalized American, physicist, and former NASA astronaut.
Ellen O. Ochoa is an engineer born in Los Angeles, CA, to Mexican parents, who became the first Hispanic woman to travel to space and was a former director of the Johnson Space Center.
Did you know that, according to the Census Bureau, there are 60 million Hispanics in the country? And that more than half live in three states: California, Texas and Florida? Two-thirds of Hispanics in the United States have their origins in Mexico, followed by Puerto Rico (9.5%) San Salvador (3.8%), and Cuba (3.6%). The rest come from the twelve countries where Spanish is the official language.
According to the Census Bureau, college enrollment has increased over the past decade, and 49% of Hispanic high school graduates enrolled in a university. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes six University of California campuses as institutions serving Hispanic students, including UC Irvine, while UC Merced is one of the universities in the country with the highest percentage of Hispanic students.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources joins the celebration
This year UC ANR the celebration by recognizing three Latino professionals who serve their communities while always upholding UC ANR's public values of academic excellence, honesty, integrity, and community service.
Claudia Diaz - 4-H youth development advisor for Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Claudia has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work with underprivileged youths in urban areas. She has been with UC ANR for five years.
Sonia Ríos - Subtropical horticulture advisor for Riverside and San Diego counties. Since an early age, Sonia knew her future was in agriculture, her grandfather and her father worked in agriculture and taught her the love for nature and the fields. She has been with UC ANR for almost nine years.
Javier Miramontes - Nutrition program supervisor for Fresno County. Javier enjoys the opportunity his work gives him to serve the community where he grew up. He finds it very rewarding to teach parents, senior citizens, and Highschool students about the importance of a healthy diet and how to create a sustainable environment. He has been with UCANR for over five years.
- Author: Glenda Humiston
UC ANR and the entire UC community are dedicated to helping create the open and equitable society to which we are all entitled. As we stand with the global outcry against the senseless, tragic murders of Black Americans, we are exploring new paths we can take to support our communities during this time and into the future.
To help us discover those new paths, resources have been created and compiled by colleagues throughout UC to promote dialogue, understanding, connection and healing. You can find UC ANR resources on our Diversity • Equity • Inclusion webpage. There, you can also find resources for confronting gender and sexuality bias, and we are working to add resources that address the breadth of diversity, equity and inclusion challenges in our organization. We welcome suggestions for additional resources to include. Please email suggestions to DEI@ucanr.edu.
Today is Juneteenth, widely celebrated in African American communities as “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day,” to mark the date of June 19, 1865, when the federal orders were read by Union Colonel Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, informing more than 250,000 still-enslaved Blacks that they had their freedom. The notice came to slaves in the state of Texas more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which became official on Jan. 1, 1863.
On this important day, we are reflecting on our country, its treatment of Black, brown and Native American peoples, and how UC values can help guide us into the future. We must continue to reflect on how our institutions and our culture treat people of color as well as religious minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, and all those who don't fit into dominant cultural norms. Our mission can never fully come to fruition if historically victimized groups continue to suffer hatred and bias. All of us at UC ANR are deeply committed to our mission and will work to build a healthy, peaceful and prosperous California for all.
- Author: Ricardo Vela
Both women face many cultural and economic challenges to achieve their missions, and thanks to their tenacity, dedication and hard work, they have turned their goals into a reality.
Claudia P. Diaz Carrasco, a native of Atizapán de Zaragoza, State of México, has been part of UC ANR since 2015 as Youth Development advisor focusing on Latino and/or low‐income youth and families.
“When I joined ANR, there were really few people in the state and around the country doing work intentionally with Latino youth development and 4-H,” said Diaz-Carrasco.
Since joining 4-H, Diaz-Carrasco has been instrumental to increasing Latino participation in 4-H programs. She works in the Inland Empire, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties — two of the largest counties in California, with almost 5 million residents; 65% are Latino.[i]
“About 60% of school-aged youth in Riverside and San Bernardino are Hispanic/Latino,” said Diaz-Carrasco. “Since the beginning, the primary focus of my position has been to develop, implement, evaluate, strengthen and expand local 4-H programming to serve the current under-represented population better."
In an environment that is generally not friendly to changes and challenges, Diaz-Carrasco faces a daily array of obstacles to achieve her goal. Among them are high levels of poverty among the families she serves, high crime rates in some communities, and a lack of interest from the parents, who in most cases work two or three jobs to make ends meet.
“The success of my work as the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisor relies on how effective my extension team and I can be in sharing knowledge gained through research, education and program evaluation, and transferring it to the communities we serve in ways that are relevant for their day to day lives while embracing their cultural context,” said Diaz-Carrasco.
The knowledge that Diaz-Carrasco and her team bring directly to the youth, their families and communities in the Inland Empire creates positive changes and healthier lives.
“The way we educate the public matters, who are our educators matters. Science and culture are at the core of every program we have implemented since I started,” Diaz-Carrasco said.
Diaz-Carrasco gives three reasons why her work is penetrating the thick layers of the communities she serves. The first one is that she is an immigrant, like many of the families she works with day in and day out. “I approach my work, knowing that a lot of people are going or have gone through the same process I went through in 2014.”
She also cites thinking out of the box as another reason for her success. “I believe creativity and flexibility are at the core of any programs I develop.”
To exemplify this statement, Diaz-Carrasco and her team partnered with the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino, where they held a successful summer camp and strengthened the partnership with the Consulate. Youth were able to participate in this unique program that aims to help them embrace their Mexican identity, even when in some cases they or their parents cannot travel outside the US.
The summer camp program was designed to increase positive ethnic identity, and to provide youth development reflecting the Latino and immigrant experience and the physiological and social effects of discrimination. The program also responded to economic poverty by assisting families with transportation, providing snacks and in some cases other items such as toothbrushes, water bottles or connecting families to health and food agencies. “Above all, we held the camp in a place that the families were already familiar with and felt safe, the consulate!” said Diaz-Carrasco. “We turned their art gallery, where official agreements are signed, into a playground. That's what I mean by out of the box.”
The interest in the program was visible from day one. In a matter of hours, 100% of the participants were reached. In the end, the parents expressed their gratitude for offering the programs in an accessible way.
Thinking out of the box has also allowed Diaz-Carrasco to partner with major companies in Southern California for the benefit of the youth.
In five years, Diaz-Carrasco has been able to increase 4-H membership in her area from 667 to 6,021. The overall percentage of Latino youth in 4-H went from 28% to 85%, and the number of volunteers grew from 175 to 354.
In the words of Sofia, a Moreno Valley student and one of the participants in the 4-H Juntos conference, “Juntos 4-H provides a home and a place where you can safely feel like it is your community. I hope expanding the program gives more students an identity as to what the community is like and that there are people who care for them and have someone to relate to and trust.”
In the heart of California's Central Valley, far from the busy streets of the Inland Empire, almost 100,000 ethnic Hmong call communities like Merced and Fresno home. This community has grown from 1,800 in April of 1982 to nearly 95,000 in 2019.[ii]
UC ANR has supported the Hmong communities in diverse areas, from farming to nutrition. For the past 34 years, Sua Vang, Community Health Education Specialist with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), has been educating these communities on the value of healthy eating.
“In 1986, I first moved in from San Diego, and I was looking for a job. My husband happened to be a community aid specialist for low family aid,“ said Vang. “So the EFNEP program asked to have two nutrition educators for this position, he happened to be there, I happened to be looking for a job, and I got hired.”
Tens of thousands of Fresno County families have benefited from her nutrition lessons during three decades of bringing healthy habits to Hmong families. Vang has faced a lot of cultural problems while doing it.
“When we go to recruit for our nutrition program, the husband has to approve it and sometimes the husband does not give his support,” said Vang. “It doesn't matter if the wife would like to take the class.”
Cultural eating habits are also a big challenge, obstacles she has overcome with patience, tenacity and creative thinking. “People from Southeast Asia don't eat or drink milk a lot,” she said. “I introduce the almond milk and rice milk so that even if they have lactose intolerance, they can still have milk and calcium in their diet.”
Vang speaks four languages: Hmong, Lao, Thai and English. She has used different platforms to bring the nutrition programs to the Hmong communities, from churches to private homes to classrooms to airwaves. Vang stresses how challenging recruiting new participants to the nutrition classes has become through the years. The older generation of Hmong don't want to go out of their homes and the new generation, said Vang, are more interested in making money than living a healthy life. But she has a pitch for them. “I say to them, if you have a lot of money and your health is not doing well, you have diabetes, and you are dying out, who is going to spend that money?”
Considering that participants in Vang's nutrition classes are immigrants from countries where food safety and nutrition are not part of their daily eating habits, the impact of her classes within the Hmong community is impressive. 73% of participants have improved in one or more food safety practices. Eighty-nine percent have improved in other areas, like reading nutrition labels and ensuring children eat a healthy breakfast.
“Thanks to this career, I would say that I have helped a lot of people, and I am glad. I know my family, my children are doing good, they eat healthily and they are doing good," Vang said. “I make a lot of new friends. I am delighted knowing that I help them.”