Christine Montes: Expanding Access to Healthier Foods in Los Angeles County
- Christine Montes (MPH ’13) is a Policy Analyst for Choose Health LA, a local initiative of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to prevent and control chronic disease in Los Angeles County. Her work focuses on policy, systems, and environmental change strategies to improve access to healthier foods.
- Montes currently leads the implementation of two county-wide initiatives focused on the retail food environment, and assists on several other projects including healthy food procurement in County facilities.
- She manages the Farmers Markets For All program of the Community Transformation Grant, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that supports an initiative to prevent chronic disease and reduce health disparities in the County. The program aims to increase access to fresh local produce among CalFresh recipients by expanding the number of farmers markets that are equipped to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.
- Additionally, she provides analysis and content expertise for Choose Health LA Restaurants, a new partnership to promote healthier options for adults and children which is currently being implemented in restaurants throughout Los Angeles County.
- Her extensive career in the restaurant industry prior to her public health studies exposed her to customers struggling to choose healthy options in the restaurant environment. This experience initiated her interest in nutrition and behavior changes concerning food on the population level, which brought her to the field of public health.
- As a FSPH student, Montes took advantage of the volunteer opportunities offered at the School and became involved in the East LA corner store project led by Dr. Michael Prelip. Working on the project provided the opportunity to meet many individuals, including making a connection to the agency she works for today.
- As part of the Farmers Markets For All project, Montes and her team have added 16 markets to the growing number that accept EBT, helping to ensure access to fresh produce for CalFresh recipients across the County.
- Her work for the Choose Health LA Restaurants program has contributed to developing partnerships with 17 restaurant brands, which translates to 700 restaurant locations offering customers the option to choose smaller portion sizes and healthier children’s meals. This innovative initiative, the first of its kind in L.A. County, has piqued the interest of public health departments in other states like Washington and Texas, who are considering adopting similar programs.
- Montes is inspired by the excitement among restaurants to participate, and she looks forward to additional new approaches, like the Choose Health LA Restaurants program, that will emerge to combat public health issues of all kinds.