Nutrition educator Ana Hernandez brings a passion for healthy eating to Houston’s Denver Harbor community

Participants walking into a nutrition education class at Vecino’s Denver Harbor Family Clinic receive a warm welcome: an inviting display of fruits, vegetables and pantry staples lines a table at the front of the room, ready for use in hands-on learning activities. Colorful posters illustrate healthy eating and the five food groups. 

But most importantly, participants are met each week by instructor Ana Hernandez, who spends time before each class catching up with families, swapping favorite recipe tips, and cheering on even the smallest successes.

Tight budgets and limited time make healthy eating a challenge

For a busy family on a tight budget, relying on prepackaged meals and fast food often seems like the only reasonable option. After all, food dollars stretch just so far, and working parents have very little time to shop and cook. Hernandez aims to change this misconception.

As a Nutrition Education Associate with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, she shares her passion for eating with working families throughout Harris County, spreading the message that cooking meals from home is not only easy, but healthier and far less expensive than prepackaged options. 

Making healthy eating fun, affordable and achievable

Through a partnership with Vecino Health Centers, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension brings the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program to the Denver Harbor community twice each year. For seven weeks in the spring and fall, Hernandez makes the prospect of healthy eating and basic exercise fun, affordable and achievable for participants. 

The popular course, currently offered to Spanish-speaking patients and community members at Vecino’s Denver Harbor Family Clinic, gives participants the knowledge to understand balanced nutrition, read labels, and cook healthy meals with everyday ingredients. The program is also available in English.

“A lot of people in our community don’t know anything about how to cook for our families and how to have a healthy life,” says Hernandez. “We work with families to show them it’s not expensive to eat healthy and make better choices.”   

A powerful impact on the health of a community 

When it comes to the health of the community, courses like the one Hernandez’ teaches have a staggering impact. Studies show that every dollar spent on the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program reduces healthcare costs by ten dollars. For all of Harris County, where the program runs at schools, community centers, clinics, churches and jails, this equals a community-wide savings of more than eight-million dollars.

This partnership with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension is just one Vecino’s services aimed at helping patients prevent and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. It represents a continuing commitment to expand preventative care and improve the long-term health of the entire community. 

Ana’s next nutrition class series starts on Thursday, September 19th at Vecino’s Denver Harbor Family Clinic.

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