A West Virginia We Can!® Site Reaches Latino Residents with "Familias Saludables"

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Posted June 14‚ 2010

If you watched famed English chef Jamie Oliver's recent TV special about nutrition in West Virginia, you know that some families struggle to eat nutritious meals. And while Jamie Oliver is focusing on families in Huntington, WV, Robin Truax is helping to bring nutrition messages to families in another WV city.

Robin Truax, the director of West Virginia Kids in Action—a nutrition and physical activity program in Martinsburg, funded by the Berkeley County Schools and Shenandoah Community Health Center—has been running We Can! programs—spreading messages on how to eat better, be more physically active, and reduce screen time—since 2007 when she attended a We Can! training.

Kids in Action in West Virginia

"The We Can! Harrisburg, PA, training gave me the materials and taught me simple and interactive ways to teach good nutrition," said Truax. "Hearing how other people were adapting the program to meet their needs also helped convince me that I could run the program even though I'm the only paid employee in my organization."

She was particularly inspired by how a group of Texans had adapted the program for the Lone Star State's many Latinos. With a growing Latino community in her area, Truax not only decided to run the four–week We Can! parent program in Spanish as well as English; she and her team also adjusted the course to meet the community's specific needs.

"We provide free childcare to parents since our Latino community likes to do things as a family," said Truax. "It brings in more fathers. Plus, we drive the message home by mirroring the hands–on activities in the parent training with similar activities for the kids in childcare."

At the end of each class, children and parents come together to make and enjoy a healthy snack. They also get special gift bags—containing kitchen items, calendars, healthy recipe books, a grocery store gift card, a CD of dances for the family, and other information—during the first and last session to help put and keep them on the right track to maintaining a healthy weight.

Truax and staff from the Shenandoah Community Health Center's Special Populations Department teach lessons together. They've adapted several We Can! documents into Spanish and created others.

The latest training in Spanish was January–February 2010, and drew four families with nine children. It was followed immediately by a new, four–week course for English–speaking families.

To help these lessons last beyond the four weeks, Truax routinely brings in outside experts such as Parks and Recreation staff to talk about what free and/or low–cost activities exist for staying active and eating well.

She also introduces training participants from both the Spanish and English groups to one another through events such as a recent potluck where everyone brought a healthy dish and then did some hula hooping.

"You become a support group... a family," said Truax.

Last Updated: February 13, 2013