For several years, the gardeners and health promotoras in Palomas saw a need to offer nutrition classes to educate residents in Palomas. Understanding why it’s important to eat certain foods provides reason and motivation to eat them. This educational component became even more important as the gardens in Palomas flourished. We noticed that people didn’t always know how to use the new foods they had available.
Now a grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation has made it possible for our health promotoras to offer nutrition classes for 40 families this year. They use a curriculum called Eating Smart Being Active developed by faculty in the Extension Divisions at Colorado State University at Fort Collins and the University of California, Davis. The curriculum includes eight lessons, seven of which the promotoras use. (One lesson, developed specifically for people who shop in regular supermarkets with sales, doesn’t apply to our situation.)
The curriculum provides a teacher’s handbook in Spanish and participant handouts. Our six promotoras have divided the lessons among themselves. Teams of two each teach two lessons.
Curriculum topics include lessons centered on:
- eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy,
- the importance of choosing lean protein, and
- limiting sugar and fat in the diet.
Each lesson includes an exercise break and teaches people about the importance of getting regular exercise. Students also get a chance to taste different foods and in some lessons to make a healthy dish.
The curriculum is designed to encourage student participation with the hope that will give people ideas about how to incorporate the changes into their lives. When classes are interactive and directly relevant, it makes the learning practical.
In addition to offering the Eating Smart Being Active curriculum, the promotoras teach many other classes on health topics. Besides offering other nutrition classes, they offer instruction on other topics, covering subjects ranging from self-esteem and stress management to family planning, personal hygiene, and accident prevention. Promotoras implement this curriculum, developed by the Mexican government, in conjunction with the government health clinic in Palomas. Low income families who receive a bimonthly food allotment are required to complete the classes in that series.