Los Angeles diocese awarded $880,000 to address high obesity rates

Posted Feb 13, 2017

[Diocese of Los Angeles] The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has been awarded $880,000 from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health with funding from the California Department of Public Health and the United States Department of Agriculture. The project to be carried out by Seeds of Hope, the Food Justice ministry of the diocese will support the Champions for ChangeHealthy Communities Initiative, which aims to reduce the prevalence of obesity among low-income Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education eligible populations by providing nutrition education, physical activity promotion, and working to create healthier environments for low-income individuals and families where they live, learn, work, play, pray and shop. 

Key efforts under the initiative include teaching fundamental skills such as cooking, reading food labels, shopping on a budget, growing fruits and vegetables, and introducing low-cost and fun ways to be physically active. In addition, champions in communities throughout the county will be identified to help improve access to healthier foods and increase opportunities to be physically active in a variety of settings, including early childcare centers, schools, faith-based organizations, corner stores, parks, worksites and cities.    

“Seeds of Hope is pleased to be a part of this county-wide initiative. As a ministry of the Episcopal Church, we are part of a trusted institution with a strong record of support for communities of need,” said Tim Alderson, executive director of Seeds of Hope. “We are working toward making notable changes at each of our church and community partner sites to help make healthy foods and a nutritious lifestyle more accessible as well as sharing ways to integrate physical activity into the day to improve the overall health for families in the Los Angeles communities of Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, Echo Park, Hollywood, Koreatown and Pico Union.”  

According to the LA County: A Cities and Communities Health Report, obesity-related chronic illnesses continue to rank among the top 10 leading causes of premature death, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.  While the obesity epidemic continues to impact virtually all population groups, obesity rates among adults in the four Council Districts (1, 10, 13, and 14) served by Seeds of Hope under this contract range from 20.6 percent to 23.8 percent. For children in these districts the rates are sadly even higher, from 26.4 percent to 28.1 percent. For Los Angeles’ Latino and African-American populations, the situation is particularly concerning.  At 29.4 percent and 29.2 percent respectively, the rate of obesity for Latinos and African Americans in Los Angeles is much higher than the 17 percent obesity rate for white Angelenos.

“Reducing obesity is a priority of Public Health and a key objective of the Champions for Change – Healthy Communities Initiative,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, interim health officer of Los Angeles County. “By investing in our communities and the people that we serve, we are hopeful that we can make impactful, long-lasting changes for better health outcomes.”

About Seeds of Hope 

Seeds of Hope was created by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles as a response to the health crises in our communities related to poverty and food insecurity. The program grows and distributes food in over 100 communities of need across six Southern California counties while providing garden-based nutrition and fitness education under contract with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.