Gabriela Martinez and Susana Cruz summed up the reasons there is an obesity crisis among the Latino community in the San Joaquín Valley.
Martínez, an immigrant from Colima, México and the mother of three children, said the Latino community is aware of the importance of eating healthy and exercising regularly.
“I think they know it, but the problem is they don’t want to do it,” Martínez said in Spanish during an interview at John Burroughs Elementary School.
She added that since enrolling in a community leadership course, she has stopped shopping for snacks at the liquor stores that populate her Fresno neighborhood, and has made a greater effort to play outside with her kids.
Susana Cruz, an immigrant from Oaxaca, México and the mother of two daughters, is also dedicated to ensuring that her family eats healthy and exercises. But she said it can be difficult to adhere to those principles when her community does not have essential resources, like accessible supermarkets and safe places to play.
“We always hear, ‘eat well, eat healthy,’ but since we don’t have safe places to walk, and don’t have accessible supermarkets, people get disillusioned and don’t do it,” Cruz said in Spanish. “It is easier and faster to go to stores that sell junk food than markets that sell fruits and vegetables at good prices.”
This week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Bill Clinton held a summit on obesity. After the meeting, the governor announced three bills he is proposing, including: making free drinking water available in food service areas at schools; eliminating sugary sports drinks from schools; and adding more physical activity to the school day.
Making California’s schools healthier will help curb the state’s obesity epidemic. But as the stories of Martínez and Cruz reflect, communities across the San Joaquín Valley and state need a healthy makeover, as well.