I remember the day the Washington Post published an article about obesity in South Texas – particularly on the diet-related issues of the RGV. I thought to myself, “Our community is in for a rude awakening.”
There is plenty of political and economic turmoil in our modern world that often leaves us feeling hopeless. We find ourselves thinking about how we can affect change as individuals and then settle for donations to charities or calling our local representatives requesting, but not demanding, change. You see, for RGV folks, the chatter we hear or read on the news rarely touches us.
Wars, strikes and rebellions, corporate greed and natural disasters seem more prevalent in today’s media, yet most RGV residents remain unscathed. Indeed, if there is no direct threat made to our community, there is no need for immediate change.
But, when that story broke, our community was directly and negatively impacted. Brought to light were the devastating issues of poverty, hunger, healthcare and high mortality rates that we all recognize, but never talk about. Another wave of hopelessness hit, and it hit close to home.
“For one of the first times anywhere in the United States, children in South Texas have a projected life span that is a few years shorter than that of their parents,” wrote Eli Saslow in his article for the Washington Post.
What could we do to ensure the RGV youth and underprivileged have a chance to be healthy, to live? Prohibit carbonated beverages in schools? Regulate the foods families can purchase with food stamps? The most liberal and conservative masterminds of our time battled with these issues at the national level, offering some of the most extreme or lax solutions to no avail. We were quick to realize that the ethical, economic and political issues surrounding the region’s health are nothing short of complicated, and it could be years before any real change could take place at the hands of lobbyists and mixed public opinions. As a community, though, we can make a difference. A conversation sparked following that unexpected media coverage, and it’s been blazing since.
RGV, we are not what we eat. We are not another statistic. We are not defined by the amount of government aid we receive. We are a growing community of diverse individuals working toward a better, brighter future for generations to come. We don’t need to shift the political landscape on a grand scale. What we need is to help out our neighbors by teaching the importance of health. There’s an uprising in local health initiatives, and it’s our duty to partake. RGV cities and organizations are uniting to promote physical well-being and healthy food choices through farmer’s markets, special fitness and outdoor events, fundraisers and other effective awareness campaigns. I’m proud to be a Valley resident today, and I hope our efforts toward optimum health continue.
I’ve caught wind of a few programs catered toward providing health awareness for the underprivileged, and as a student studying nutrition with the UTRGV’s Dietetics Program, I think it’s such a wonderful cause. So, I’ll end my rant and leave this information for anyone reading or interested.
RGV Food Bank – The food bank is going above and beyond their duties of providing foods to those in need. Besides planting an organic community garden, the organization hosts their Healthy Living nutrition education program funded by Texas Health and Human Services. The goal of the program is to teach healthy food habits to the very community members it serves.
RGV Diabetes Association – Much like the efforts of the food bank, this association offers monthly cooking classes, community health fairs and lectures to educate the growing diabetes population. Local volunteers, dieticians and nutritionists get together to further this group’s cause.
Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley – The Children and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is part of the Catholic Charities of the RGV organization. The program provides nutritious meals and/or snacks for participating community members. They aim to safeguard the health and well-being of all citizens.
Valley Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – This non-profit organization was put together by local dietitians looking to advance health awareness in their communities. As members of the state and national academy, these professionals have the education and tools necessary to teach health and fitness.