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HEAL Intern Spotlight: Leon Foster

Leon facilitating healthy eating workshop with students at Castelar Elementary
What have you been doing as an intern with APIFM?

While working with APIFM, I was part of numerous nutrition workshops tailored to older adults and young children. These workshops were no more than a hour long and contained tastings, demos, games, and review questions. It was a little nerve-racking at first to be thrown in a totally new environment and not know what to expect. However, the flow and process of each session turned out to be not only easy to fall in place with, but a delight to be a part of. Interacting with the people in the classes was not as difficult as I expected to be. Everyone was enthusiastic about the topics and interested in the material.

What do you like most about the work?

What I loved most was supporting the nutrition classes that took place at Castelar Elementary School, located in Chinatown. The classes were simple enough for elementary students to comprehend and fun enough for everyone to enjoy. The kids laughed, played, and wanted to share their knowledge of different food experiences. I too enjoyed talking to the kids about my experiences with food and how I learned to eat healthier. The lessons began with an introduction to fundamental knowledge of food groups, healthy eating, and skills that can be used later in life. These skills and knowledge were things like knowing how to use our five senses to examine food, how many cups of water should we drink a day, or why it’s important to have a diverse diet. Each class was meant to build on top of the previous class with fun game reviews and interactive activities to learn more.

Nutrition education workshop at Castelar Elementary
How do the children benefit from the workshops you support?

The kids were quick learners and of course were ecstatic to participate in games. The games were meant to be fun, but also packed with information about nutrition. They learned about a balanced diet containing all foods. They learned what each food group provides their bodies with such as better skin, stronger muscles, a healthier stomach, and more. They also increased their vocabulary with descriptive words to define the fruits and vegetables they were able to eat. At the end of each class there was a tasting of fruits and vegetables for the kids and everyone to try. In some cases the kids were hesitant to try to new food and in other cases the kids discovered a new delicious snack. This activity was especially exciting for them because they were able to handle the food. Not only were they playing with their food, but learning about it. Many of the children didn’t even know what the food was called and had never seen it before. This was a great way to push the kids to be brave and explore things they are not accustomed to. These experiences will not only benefit them in trying new foods, but also in general life. They will be able to push past their comfort zones and find pleasure in challenging themselves.

APFIM intern, Leon Foster, working with students at Castelar Elementary
How has this experience impacted you, and what are your future plans?

It’s great to be part of an organization so dedicated to creating healthier future generations. It was truly fun to wake up in the morning, knowing I would soon be surrounded by eager faces, ready to talk about healthy foods and try various vegetables and fruits. I loved being involved in a program that visits elementary schools and spends resources on children that might not have been given the opportunity to experience new foods. I believe this opportunity has helped me understand the importance of being able to present information to have the biggest impact communities. I want to improve the living conditions and environments for communities who are facing barriers. I plan to use these new skills to help me when presenting information to communities who can benefit from it.

About Leon

Leon Foster is a Cambodian American senior undergraduate student majoring in public health at California State University, Los Angeles. He grew up in Long Beach in a mixed household. Leon plans to attend graduate school in the near future for Environmental Health.

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