Starting a New Life and Putting a Stop to Health Problems

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Instructor Laura Navarro leads a Zumba class at Silvia Nutricion center. (Photo: Anabell Romero)

Instructor Laura Navarro leads a Zumba class at Silvia Nutricion center. (Photo: Anabell Romero)

“Good morning!” says Silvia Cruz as she greets women who enter her nutrition center.

“It’s five dollars for a shake and the zumba class, or three dollars for the zumba class only,” she says as she’s collecting the money and putting it into a metal box.

Five years ago when Cruz and her husband Roberto Garcia came to the United States, they never imagined they would have their own business. The couple has been married for 25 years. After living a comfortable and stable life in Mexico, Roberto abruptly lost his job.

“My husband was an engineer for 15 years,” said Cruz. “Then his company went under new management, and my husband was laid off along with other employees.” Continue reading »

Unmet Need of Homeless Youth in San Bernardino

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Darryl Evey stands in the dining room of "Our House" homeless shelter in Redlands.  (Photo: Bobbi Albano)

Darryl Evey stands in the dining room of "Our House" homeless shelter in Redlands. (Photo: Bobbi Albano)

Although they are difficult to count, Terrance Stone, CEO of Young Visionaries homeless youth shelter estimates there are 25,000 homeless kids in San Bernardino County at any given time. The California Homeless Youth Project agrees. "Homeless youth are highly mobile and often try hard to avoid detection and contact with adults. ... This means they are often not counted during annual homeless surveys." During 2008-09, 81,000 services were provided by federally-funded runaway and homeless youth programs in California. While these services ranged from beds to street outreach contacts, it isn't known how many homeless kids received no services.

There are only two shelters in San Bernardino County for kids who have run away from home, have been kicked out or are living on the streets. Young Visionaries, which has space available to house just four children at any time, is located in the city of San Bernardino. The other shelter, Our House, is in Redlands and has room for twelve homeless youth.

Homeless, as defined by the California Homeless Youth Project, “generally refers to unaccompanied minors ages 12 through 17 who are living apart from their parents or legal guardians.” Living situations for these youth could include living on the streets or on a friend's couch. They could be runaways or "throwaways" -- youth that have been thrown out of their family’s home. Continue reading »

BEC Investigates Dioxin in Oroville Eggs

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Mary Muchowski and Julia Murphy discuss dioxin with attendees at the Oroville Library. (Photo: Marley Zalay)

Butte Environmental Council members Mary Muchowski and Julia Murphy (at left) discuss dioxin at a public seminar in Oroville.. (Photo: Marley Zalay)

In July of 2011, Community Correspondent Rachelle Parker wrote about Butte Environmental Council's (BEC) fascinating study assessing dioxin levels in backyard chicken eggs around Oroville. She outlined the history of the Koppers fire which caused dioxin contamination in surrounding soil and the original study by the former California Department of Health Services (CDHS). Dioxin is known for its toxicity and persistence in the environment. BEC recently held a workshop in Oroville about dioxin to educate community members about this issue.

The intention of BEC's study was to gain a better understanding of the public's exposure to dioxin by eating backyard chicken eggs. Julia Murphy, Education and Outreach Assistant at BEC, explained that dioxin is linked to a myriad of negative health effects, "from hormone disruption and immune system dysfunction, to birth defects and cancer." But because we are exposed to dioxin from a variety of sources, it is difficult to draw a straight cause-and-effect line from the source to adverse health effects.

BEC also wanted to assess how long dioxin remains in soil, as there is a great lack of data on this subject. What is known about dioxin? It has a half-life of seven to 11 years in the human body, and it is passed from mothers to babies via breast milk. Dioxin binds to organic material in soil, which is scratched and consumed by chickens. Because dioxin is fat-soluble, it becomes concentrated in chicken eggs and other animal products. Fruit and vegetables, on the contrary, do not store dioxin. Continue reading »

School Lunch Program: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

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Children at Union House Elementary School in Elk Grove enjoy a "school dinner" as part of the federal school lunch program. (Photo: Sharon Chandler)

Children at Union House Elementary School in Elk Grove enjoy a "school dinner" as part of the federal school lunch program. (Photo: Sharon Chandler)

Back in the day, school lunches were just that, school lunches.  There was no breakfast, snack, or dinner, no matter how many hours you were in the classroom. Today, school lunches, and afterschool snack programs provide a much-needed nutritional benefit for a majority of children who might be poorly fed or in some cases, not fed at all.

In the Elk Grove Unified School District, in the South Sacramento area, kindergarten students through 6th graders who receive Title 1 or reduced or free lunch program are provided an additional meal in the afterschool programs.  Previously students received breakfast, lunch, and a snack after school, around 2:15pm. Now dinner is served around 4:15pm.

A great number of students are at school from 7:00am to 6:00pm, which makes for a very long day and a lot of growing, energy-exuding bodies. Beginning this past October, and continuing for the next couple of years, federal dollars will make these dinner meals available to after-schoolers. The meals include a meat or meat alternative, bread, fruit, vegetable and milk. Continue reading »

My Own Rocky Road to a Healthier Wilmington

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Editor's Note: Anabell Romero is a blogger for ouRXperience. She writes this opinion piece about her role on the Wilmington Neighborhood Council and its consideration of a new initiative. We include the perspective of the Council's chair at the end of this post.

Fernando Cuevas holding up a sign in support of the Clean Up Green Up campaign at the press conference at L.A. City Hall. (Photo: Anabell Romero)

Fernando Cuevas holds up a sign in support of the Clean Up Green Up campaign at a press conference earlier this month at L.A. City Hall. (Photo: Anabell Romero)

In September 2010, I was having dinner with my family when I received a text from my friend, Kat Madrigal, who told me that my name was on the Wilmington Neighborhood Council agenda. She was at the meeting and saw that the council was going to vote on my application to be a Member at Large. I was puzzled, because while I had applied, I did not know I was being considered that night.

Then I wondered, “If I am voted in as a member of the WNC how will I be able to make a difference in my community?”

Kat instantly texted me, “I think you should come.”

I was voted in that night-- one of three members-at-large on a council of up to 23 people. Now almost two years later I am honored to still sit on the board along with others who represent Wilmington residents, businesses, non-profits, senior citizens, education institutions, parks, churches and our youth.

I joined the WNC because I wanted to take action on a number of issues. The ongoing violence, our poor education system, and our lack of resource centers are big challenges. But more than anything, I'm concerned about the toxic air our neighborhood produces by being the home of active rail yards, storage tanks, oil refineries, salvage sites and other industry that dominates and pollutes our community.

The WNC was created in 2001, making it the first neighborhood council in Los Angeles. Ever since, community members have held very high expectations. Continue reading »