Tips for Shopping Healthy—on a Budget
September 30 2011
By Manuela McDonough, Program Manager, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR
For the first time in U.S. history, Latino children make up the largest group of poor children in the country. According to a new study by the Pew Hispanic Center released Wednesday, 6.1 million Latino children are living in poverty. Several factors may contribute to this statistic, including the disproportionate difficulty that Latinos face amid the weak economic recovery and continuing job crisis. With the Hispanic unemployment rate at 12.5%, it is now more important than ever to teach Latino parents like Yvette how best to stretch their dollars to buy healthy groceries that are critical to their children’s growth, development, and well-being.
Unfortunately, the reality is that healthier foods cost more than foods that are less nutritious. The good news is that it is possible to help families to afford more healthy foods by sharing simple, money-saving skills. At the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) Institute for Hispanic Health (IHH), where NCLR’s health programs are housed, we recognize this. That’s why in 2010, IHH developed De Compras con Salud y Sabor, a project geared toward educating low-income Latino families in how to get the most nutrition for their food dollars by helping them make healthier, affordable choices centering on traditional Latino foods.
As we saw in the vignette, Yvette, from San Antonio, knows that eating healthy foods is best for her children’s health and helps prevent many chronic diseases. However, in the face of hard economic times, she and her husband have to be savvy regarding the food that they buy. For example, she’ll buy fattier leg quarters that are cheaper, but when she gets home she makes sure to take the excess fat off. Easy solutions such as this one are included in the De Compras project.
In collaboration with three NCLR Affiliates and with support from General Mills, IHH designed, developed, and evaluated a bilingual promotores de salud (lay health worker) curriculum. The curriculum, proven effective, includes basic nutritional and physical activity information, as well as tips on how to save money when shopping for groceries.
Some of the strategies our promotores teach include preparing a shopping list (Spanish and English) to help families stick to the healthier foods that they need to buy and avoid unnecessary purchases; hints on how to cook traditional meals in a healthier way without compromising the taste; and reminders about how to prepare for a trip to the supermarket. Once the educational session is completed, promotores then lead grocery store tours so that participants can practice key food shopping skills such as buying fruits and vegetables in season, using coupons, and identifying whole grain foods for bulk purchases.
Through the Comer Bien stories, we’ve heard directly from Latino families the different struggles and barriers they face in putting healthy food on their tables. No one solution can fix this problem, and we can’t do it alone. I know that by working together on a comprehensive approach that includes both policy and program efforts, we can address these challenges and ensure that all Latino children, despite their economic status, have the opportunity to be well-nourished and grow up healthy and strong.
Save the date! NCLR will be wrapping up the Comer Bien vignette series with a Twitter chat on Thursday, October 6, at 4:00 p.m. EDT. Stay tuned for more information.
Issues: Comer Bien, Health, Health and Nutrition, Healthy Foods, Healthy Families, Immigrant Health
Geography:California, Far West, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Texas