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Conquering a food desert: making a healthy lifestyle a permanent change



A Healthy South Central | Although there are still a very small amount of grocery stores in South Central, the few that are in business along South central Avenue are trying to use their resources to implement a permanent, healthy lifestyle change for these people.

Photo Credit: Danica Ruberti | This Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has been opened for almost 2 years on the corner of South Central Avenue and Adams Boulevard in South Central Los Angeles. The Fresh & Easy goal is to bring healthy eating to the people in these neighborhoods.

Photo Credit: Danica Ruberti| There are still many unhealthy options that temp the people in the South Central neighborhoods. To check out the different fast food restaurants and small markets within South Central, click here.

Photo Credit: Danica Ruberti | Many billboards in the South Central area promoted fast food restaurants, making it difficult for these people to learn how to make the change from unhealthy foods to healthy foods.

Photo Credit: Danica Ruberti | Stores are starting to place nutritional facts in their stores to help educate the community on what a healthy diet would look like.

Photo Credit:Danica Ruberti | Take a look inside this Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and other South Central Markets that promote healthy eating by clicking here.

What can be done? Healthy eating meets exercise
Vivian Bowers of the Bowers and Sons Cleaning Service talked about the ways people can change the unhealthy habits in South Central. Despite living in a food desert, Bowers said there is so much more to the issue than unhealthy eating. Education must be done to create an all-around healthy lifestyle, with healthy eating and plenty of exercise.

By Danica Ruberti

South Central has been considered a "food desert," consisting of too many fast food restaurants and not enough options for healthy produce, but a few markets in the inner city are aiming to make healthy food more accessible, despite it's challenges.

Along Central Avenue, there is a Fresh and Easy, Superior, and a Family Farms Market, but they are expected to serve such a large portion of South Central. Their goal is to make healthy food a normal part of their lifestyle.

"As a comapany we thought this was an opprtunity for us to bring in healthy eating," Henry Mercedo, store manager of Fresh and Easy, said. "People that are very health concious can come in here and see what we have to offer as a company because we have a lot of stuff that has no artifical flavoring or color."

Fresh and Easy has been open for two years on the corner of Central Avenue and Adams. Everything in the store is fresh, without artifical coloring or flavor.

"When you walk into their store, one of the first things you see is an abundance of fresh fruit," Vivian Bowers, owner of Bowers and Sons Cleaners, said.

Bowers and Sons Cleaners is just a few stores away from this Fresh & Easy. Although this is one of the few fresh food markets in South Central, it is in a process of growing, Bowers said. The community must understand the changes going on around them.

"We have some customers thank us for having a nicer market for them," Isaac Aquino, team leader of Fresh and Easy, said. "So I'm assuming some of the other markets in the area are not as fresh, or in their opinon, not as clean, so I think they deserved it."

South Central is surrounded by fast food restaurants that have been become a habit, convenience, or necessity in these people's lives.

"You are looking around at a lot of fast food places, chicken, you've got a taco place." Aquino said. "You don't see many health food."

But with a market, like Fresh and Easy, they have fruits and vegetables always available to them.

"Now they can have the option of buying more healthy food," Aquino said. "Many of the markets don't offer what we offer."

Even though a few markets exist, many people continue to resort to fast food habits. Some people believed this is because of the low-income neighborhoods.

"I mainly think its because they don't have the money because if they can buy somewhere else cheaper, they would," Mercedo said.

Bowers on the other hand said it is all about the education. Healthy food can become a way of life for the people of South Central when their is a change in habit and they understand how they can do it.

"I think it's reeducation and I believe it's going to happen," Bowers said. "It's a slow process to teach people how to eat right."

Councilwoman Jan Perry holds a Farmer's Market each week with fresh produce, dancing, and cooking lessons. Education must be constantly instilled in their minds, which can be done through advertisements, an increase in markets, posted recipes of meals, clinics, events that teach the people how to lead a healthy lifestyle. It will require a permanent change in their lives.

"I understand no even the schools have a program where they're serving only fresh foods, low sodium," Bowers said. I don't think they even serve soda in the cafeterias anymore."

Unhealthy lifestyles, obesity, and diabetes is not solely caused by the inaccessible healthy food in this area. Many say that another huge factor is exercise.

"It's not just being a food desert. Its not just having fast food," Bowers said. "It's how much exercise you are getting, how much educating we are giving."

So, education for a healthy lifestyle doesn't only mean teaching people how to eat healthy, it also means teaching the community how to stay active. This makes conquering a food desert so much more doable.