HEAL Intern Spotlight: Leon Foster

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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My APIFM internship experience – Jingtian Wu

During my internship, my favorite activity was APIFM’s produce stand at Little Tokyo. It provides fresh produce to local residences, and it educates local businesses about the fact that a lot of people are receiving government benefits. It unites the community together. By tracking how many people are on governmental benefits, such as medical and EBT card, we are trying to convince local businesses to accept EBT cards. Other interns from UCLA and I went to every single store in Little Tokyo talking about our produce stand and posting flyers on their window. I feel that it is such an excellent chance for us as interns to know the local communities by visiting all the stores. I am a pro in Little Tokyo now! : )

Youth Nutrition Workshop in Koreatown

I did nutrition education with other interns at Koreatown Youth and Community Center. We led the elementary students and preschoolers to do physical activity. Also, we educated them about seeds and gardening. I feel that it is so hard to teach them about nutrition because they do not understand and a lot of them are picky eaters. Reflecting on what I read in the book Fearless Feeding, I realize the best way to educate them about foods is to expose them to a variety of flavors and encourage them to try new things. Even though they are picky eaters and sometimes they will try something and spit them out, they are still open to trying new flavors especially when it is a group activity. There was a girl who refused most of the items we gave her, but she decided to try when she saw her friends all tried. They held the foods counting down from three and ate together. Even though they ended up running to the trash and spitting out all the foods, it was still nice to see that they were willing to try. I feel this kind of group activity of trying new things is also a form of family table. When kids look at their friends and family are having something they haven’t have before, they will be more willing to try. It proves that the family table is a great way to raise a non-picky eater.

Chinatown Residents Fundraising

In November 2018, I supported APIFM’s outreach tabling in Chinese American neighborhoods as well as nutriton workshops at Chinatown Service Center. Gladly, I met so many friendly first-generation Chinese immigrants. They came to our workshops for free cooking and Tai Chi classes. We did fundraising on the afternoon of Nov 10th to get money for the stretch band to help elders who come to our class exercise. People are very supportive. We collected enough money to purchase 30 stretch band in one day.

It is good to know that we have an organization that serves Asians and Pacific Islanders specifically. A lot of the things that they are doing benefit the entire community. It makes me want to contribute more to my community. As someone who holds a degree in nutrition, I can do something to promote the wellness and health of the community holistically.

Jingtian Wu interned with APIFM in Fall 2018 as part of a community rotation for her dietetic program at Pepperdine University.

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