CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s the first week of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Throughout the month, CBS 2 will be bringing you stories about the community. CBS 2’s Marissa Parra introduces us to a Mexican American woman in Pilsen aiming to make Chicago Latinos healthier.READ MORE: Another Victim Of Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy Identified: Francis Wayne Alexander, Of North Carolina
The story begins at Lincoln United Methodist Church, the headquarters for the nonprofit Healthy Hood Chicago.
Inside, there is space for movement with yoga and dance, and outside their tomatoes and peppers grow free. It’s exactly what CEO Tanya Lozano envisioned when she hoped to create a sanctuary for holistic growth.
“There’s a life expectancy gap here for a reason,” said Lozano. “What we’re trying to do is teach the preventative aspects of that, that’s where healthy food comes into play.”
Every Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m., Healthy Hood Chicago distributes boxes of food to over 100 families, full of greens and reds and yellows; the bright colors of healthy eating.
“We know we will eat a salad every Tuesday because I go pick up my box of vegetables,” says Roxana Joachin as she washes a cucumber.
For Joachin, who has a family history of diabetes, this box has become a lifeline.
“My family was hit with COVID last year. My mom had it. I had it,” Joachin said. “We were eating whatever was available, my husband couldn’t work,” said the mother of four. “And when you’re busy and on a budget, are you going to pay $7 for one salad or $1 for a burger?”
Her tale is one of many who live in a so-called food desert. That’s a pocket of space in an area with limited access to healthy foods. But Lozano wants to change that term.READ MORE: Teen Charged In Pair Of September 2020 Carjackings On South Side
“It’s not a food desert, I don’t like calling it that. It’s food inequality. This is systemic” she said while shaking her head. “Go to the neighborhoods of color here. You’ve got junk food, Flamin’ Hots, Takis, front and center. And people take what they can get and what they can afford.”
Science has already shown how poor eating can contribute to hypertension, Diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and cancer, which are exactly the same diseases on the list Lozano is trying to educate her community about.
“These diseases are killers, especially in communities of color. And food can act as either as a poison or a medicine,” Lozano said.
Last year, the boxes of food were medicine to Joachim as her family battled COVID-19 and were isolated at home.
“My mom had it, I had it. My husband couldn’t work and Healthy Hood Chicago was there for us, delivering groceries to my house with PPE, hand sanitizer, even toilet paper,” she said.
Joachin has since become a volunteer herself as a way to give back to the people who looked out for her in her time of need, which Lozano said is a testament to the community they’re growing.
“(The word) “hood” has always had this negative connotation. But for us, “hood” is what made us what we are. It’s why we have that culture and ‘”el sabor” as Latinos,” Lozano said. “Who better to understand our challenges than ourselves?”
Healthy Hood Chicago also has a vaccine outreach program in addition to dance and fitness programs. The organization will be offering nutritional workshops soon.MORE NEWS: Desperate To Find More Staff, Some Fast Food Restaurants Recruiting Customers
Click here to find out more about Healthy Hood, its mission or to make a donation.