A line wrapped around the block, and the aroma of tamales filled the air for the first Wellness Wednesday at the Maravilla Meat Market in East Los Angeles.
The free event, sponsored by Los Angeles County’s Internal Services Department, Supervisor Hilda Solis and others, was meant to serve as a healthy living workshop for the community. This included demonstrations on healthy cooking, recipe books and food samplings. Additionally, the first 75 patrons received a free box of produce provided by the Los Angeles Food Bank, according to a Facebook post from ISD Wellness Wednesday.
Regina Dickerson, a staff development specialist with ISD who organized the event, said most people don’t have healthy eating habits, prompting the department to act.
“When people eat healthy, it helps people to live longer,” Dickerson said.
The event is something Dickerson said she plans to have as a recurring service for the community.
East L.A. is a food desert, according to the civic engagement group Public Matters, with a 32.2% childhood obesity rate that is among the highest in the county. Additionally, the LA County Department of Health reported that East L.A. residents face a higher likelihood of obesity-related diseases, like heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
“We’re holding it at Maravilla Meat Market in East L.A. because this is a market-appointed grocery store that’s serving a community that’s designated a fresh food desert,” said Minh Le, the general manager for Energy Environmental Services with ISD.
As part of the event, Maravilla Meat Market was provided with two energy-efficient refrigerators through a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
“And so now [the market is] able to keep their California-grown produce fresh longer and help serve this community,” Le said.
The event was also meant to help provide the community with easier access to implementing healthy eating habits by demonstrating the ease of cooking healthy.
Julie Chirino, the daughter of Maravilla Meat Market’s owner, said though the market is a for-profit business, she herself feels she is a “public servant at heart.”
“So I think that’s [giving back] at the heart of what my mom does,” Chirino said. “And this is another example of how she gives back to the community.”