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Boyle Heights

Creating Student Leaders for Food Justice

9:14 AM PDT on October 19, 2012

Listening to Roosevelt High School students' presentation on their Halloween-themed events to promote the Yash la Casa and Ramirez Meat Markets' recent offering of healthy food options, there was no mention of how the public would get there.

"It's also about access and getting people out there in creative ways," I said to the Ramirez Meat Market group.

"We didn't think about it, the limited space," a girl said.

"That's why you could do a bike ride -- because bikes don't take up too much space, and you still get people out there."

The Market Makeover Smackdown, which is happening from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday, October 20, is a competition between the two corner stores and Roosevelt High School students to see who can bring out more people to the stores that day. Bragging rights aside, the biggest prize is exposing locals to the healthy offerings in hopes of building broader support for the stores.

The students were tasked with organizing the panel, making presentations about the event to the panel, and listening to the panel's feedback, hopefully laying the foundation for a younger generation to care about corner stores. Broken into two groups, the students began by brainstorming ideas, such as using squash as the vegetable they would highlight. Both groups wanted to raffle off fruit baskets, pass out flyers, send out messages via social media, and do a food demo on how to make calabacitas and a chicken dish.

Gabrielle Ettlinger, a health specialist, warned students about having enough ingredients to do the food demos. Clara Mejia, community liaison for Proyecto MercadoFresco, said that while social media was a way to get people out, the audience they hoped to attract would most likely respond to in-person solicitations.

Proyecto MercadoFresco is part of the UCLA/USC Center for Population Health and Health Disparities initiative that is leading the corner store conversions in East LA. Members of Public Matters, a community engagement organization, have worked with some of the Roosevelt students on the MercadoFresco program for the past three years.

"It is our goal that we train [the students] in public speaking and their awareness of these issues so that they become the community health leaders," said Reanne Estrada, Creative Director for Public Matters.

While the program will eventually end, said Estrada, she hopes that the students' exposure to food issues continues to inform their choices in the future.

Want to participate in the smackdown? Visit Public Matters for more information.

WHEN: Saturday, October 20, 2012, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

WHERE: Ramirez Meat Market, 3618 Folsom Blvd. (at Rowan St.); Yash La Casa Market, 3968 Hammel (at Hazard St.)

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