Educating Sacramento's Children about Nutrition and Exercise with RIVER and the Newman's Own Foundation
What’s the best way to solve a problem? Prevent it from happening, of course. For the organizers of R.I.V.E.R., it’s an attainable goal when you’re talking about personal health. R.I.V.E.R., stands for Recognizing Illnesses Very Early & Responding, and since 2013, the University of California, Davis nonprofit has been helping others do just that. Serving the “uninsured, underserved, at-risk community of the greater Sacramento area”, the patient advocacy group is trying to prevent chronic disease by educating people (children, in particular) about proper nutrition and exercise.
R.I.V.E.R. was one of our Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge participants. As the competition winds down in its last month, we've been catching up with some of the groups to ask how it's been going. Below, R.I.V.E.R.’s co-director of nutrition, Janelle Manzano, answers some of our questions.
1. How is R.I.V.E.R. different from what’s already in the market?
Most public health programs aimed at children are only action-based. Our program is different, because we are aiming to teach children the significance and importance of a healthy lifestyle in terms that they can understand. Hopefully in this way, we can help kids find a tangible meaning for the word “healthy”, [so they live] long and happy lives.
2. What’s been the most unexpected thing (aspect, challenge, happening, etc)?
Being able to execute all of our ideas as undergraduate students and see them become a reality. The assumption is that undergraduates do not have the time to accomplish such feats but all of the members in our organization have this incredible drive that allows them to use their passion towards improving the wellbeing of underserved communities in both Davis and Sacramento.
3. How on earth are you managing to do this and still be a student?
One of the first goals upon entering college is how to study effectively. After that it comes down to prioritizing your interests. Choosing a major you are passionate about can really help. Members in R.I.V.E.R. have a wide variety of interests, [including] pre-med, physical therapy, registered dieticians and teaching, [but] we all share a common level of passion for what we study [and we’re] utilizing it towards our efforts in R.I.V.E.R.
4. How has the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge (NOFC) made a difference?
Together we have developed activities, [such as] food demos, which encourage children to become more invested and interactive with the meal-developing processes. [They] emphasize that everything about [food]-- from grocery shopping to cooking to eating-- should be a positive experience. NOFC has allowed for our members to develop programs of influence and positive change involving children, nutrition and healthy lifestyles.
5. What’s your advice to people out there reading this?
Our best advice is to be creative [and] be flexible! One must be adaptable to all types of circumstances.
This is part of an ongoing Q&A series between Net Impact and the teams participating in the Newman’s Own Food Challenge. See more about the program and its participants here.