“If you want to go faster, go alone. If you want to go farther, go together.”
This quote shone from the wall of the meeting room this spring at Community Action’s K Street Head Start Center. Inside, several Head Start parents gathered to receive graduation certificates from FEAST (Food Education Access Support Together), a nutrition and wellness group piloted in Los Angeles.
Funding from the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln and Bryan Health meant Community Action became one of the first organizations outside Los Angeles to implement the FEAST program model. FEAST is just one component of Community Action’s Growing Great Beginnings project, an obesity prevention intervention embedded within the agency’s Head Start programs.
For 16 weeks, this group met to learn the benefits of mindful eating and build a new, empowering community.
Sheila Stratton, nutrition and wellness coach at Community Action, said, “We combine connection and education to empower participants. FEAST recognizes that food and eating are personal. The program model is judgment-free.”
One participant, Nyabana, said, “FEAST means so much to me. I wanted to learn about cooking healthier for my family. Now, I go to the store and know I’m giving them something good.”
Each week, group members met to prepare nutritious recipes and discuss topics such as the dangers of processed foods and low-budget healthy eating possibilities. Participants could then try similar recipes at home, using provided grocery scholarships.
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Stratton first found FEAST online, and Executive Director Dana Rizer invited her to leadership training.
“I’m grateful that our agency and partners trusted the possibilities of FEAST, and that participants trusted themselves,” said Stratton. “This program’s successes weren’t possible without participant dedication.”
Before FEAST, Nyabana considered weight loss surgery.
“Surgery was expensive,” she said, “but I thought I needed it to be healthy.”
Maricela, another participant, began FEAST concerned about her diabetic symptoms. At graduation, she announced they had vanished. Accepting her certificate, she said, “I am better now because of this group.”
“I know I don’t need surgery now because of this knowledge and support. I’m grateful. And I can teach my children, too, to accomplish incredible things. I want everyone to know about this program.”