Lawndale Elementary School District Gets County Dollars to Reduce Obesity

Initiatives target rising childhood obesity rates in Lawndale, Hawthorne and Inglewood through family nutrition education and physical activity programs

Lawndale Elementary School District (LESD) has been awarded more than $700,000 from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) to implement two new community healthy lifestyle education programs. The initiatives were designed to address L.A. County’s steady rise in obesity rates across all demographic groups and in almost every region of the County. Within the County’s Public Service Area eight, Lawndale, Hawthorne and Inglewood suffer from a higher prevalence of childhood obesity rates compared to other communities in the region.

“Early childhood is a critical time for obesity prevention,” said Dr. Ellen Dougherty, LESD Superintendent. “It really sets the stage for healthy behaviors over the course of a lifetime.”

Nutrition Education Obesity Prevention (NEOP) was the first award received. NEOP or as it is more widely recognized, Champions for Change, empowers Lawndale parents and caregivers to make healthier choices. The grant provides the opportunity for seven trained peer parent educators to conduct nutrition classes at all nine LESD schools. This year more than 500 parents have taken classes.

“I have learned a lot and am slowly introducing new, healthier dishes to my kids,” said Juana Vazquez, LESD parent and class participant. “They are not used to eating like this.” A dozen parent-child gardening and nutrition lessons will be conducted this summer and additional courses are being planned for the fall.

This summer, LESD kicks off its second DPH grant, with funding from First 5 LA, to implement the Choose Health LA Kids (CHLAKids) initiative. CHLAKids, is an early childhood obesity prevention initiative that brings together a broad range of partners throughout Lawndale, Hawthorne and Inglewood to implement community-based public education, skills-building and environmental changes that promote physical activity and healthy eating for children ages 0-5 and their families. Among the 20 clinical and nonprofit organizations that received the grant, LESD was the only school district.

Through CHLAKids, LESD will partner with Head Start, public libraries and community centers to conduct interactive nutrition classes and cooking demonstrations to show parents and caregivers new ways to prepare healthy meals. Collaborations with local grocery stores, farmers markets and mini-marts will be formed to offer tours and budget shopping tips. Program staff will also conduct outreach for Choose Health LA Restaurants, a partnership between DPH and local restaurants to promote healthier food choices, including children’s meals.

“We are excited and hopeful about this effort and its ability to encourage healthy habits in young children,” said Dougherty. Both programs run through 2016.

About Lawndale Elementary School District
Lawndale Elementary School District (LESD) is located in the heart of the South Bay and serves 6,500 students from pre-school through eighth grade. The district began operating in 1906 with one teacher and 20 students. There are currently seven elementary schools and two middle schools. LESD offers three programs targeted to the zero to five age population: Early Education Program, Lawndale Early Advantage Program, and Transitional and traditional kindergarten classrooms. Through community partners and government support, LESD has been championing healthy lifestyle initiatives for its students and families since 1994. http://www.lawndale.k12.ca.us/wellness

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