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Cornerstore conversion project featured on KCET

The FSPH cornerstore conversion project was chosen by KCET viewers to be featured in a short documentary by Artbound.

Sunday, June 22, 2014
Thursday, February 13, 2014

Urban planner Jackie Illum describes the efforts being made to bring healthy eating options to the the Boyle Heights food swamp.

As I walk down Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, the smell of exhaust and greasy, salty, tasty foods overwhelms my nose. The street is shaded yet colorful, cramped yet large -- filled with everything from fruit vendors to bacon wrapped hot dog vendors, taquerias, bodegas, and stores selling everything from household items to inexpensive fashion from across the globe. Walking down First Street near Mariachi Plaza, a completely different vibe is felt. It is much sunnier, and while there may be fewer people out and about, more of those people are lingering, relaxing, enjoying their afternoon in the sun. Mariachi Plaza has a rich history in Boyle Heights, and it is a lovely place to people watch. Cars pull over to make event arrangements with mariachis, people enjoy their lunch in the warm sun, and people gather to voice their thoughts. As a relatively new Angeleno, Boyle Heights has become one of my favorite neighborhoods. It has so many interesting layers of history to be uncovered and learned about, so many wonderful people and organizations, and such an air of constant buzz and hope as things are changing for the better. Wall after wall covered in vibrant murals, young folks walking the streets and creating movements to improve the community and neighborhood in which they grew up.

As fascinating a neighborhood as I think Boyle Heights is, the healthy eating options are limited. I haven't actually counted, but I would bet that for every fresh apple available, there are at least fifty tacos, hot dogs, or hamburgers available to the public. Today's Boyle Heights population is 94 percent Latino, with an average household income of $33,000. Compared to the City of Los Angeles, residents have around $20,000 less per household to spend on housing, food, transportation, and other expenses. On average, family sizes are larger in Boyle Heights than citywide, further stretching dollars. Residents experience disproportionately high rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease -- also known as racial and ethnic health disparities. Children are even experiencing these diseases -- 26% of children in 5th, 7th, and 9th grades suffer from obesity. The worst part about all of this? These diseases are preventable. Poor diet and lack of physical activity, both made possible by barriers to health in Boyle Heights, are often the leading factors. The chart below shows the high rates of these health conditions in Los Angeles County, with African American and Latino populations suffering more than everyone else.

Overweight or obese and diabetes are much higher for the Latino and African American populations than the rest of Los Angeles County. Source: California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Los Angeles County Multicultural Health Fact Sheet. Data from 2000.