MODESTO — West Modesto neighbors got a fun and tasty reminder to eat their veggies Sunday.
The West Modesto King Kennedy Neighborhood Collaborative and Network for Healthy California held a Fruit and Veggie Fest outside the Maxx Value Foods store.
The minifestival featured pedal-powered smoothies, healthy recipe samples and other information to encourage better eating and fitness habits in the community.
"Everyone is participating because they want the community to be better," said Brenda Crump, with the Neighborhood Collaborative. "We're just trying to get people to eat their fruits and vegetables and stay healthy."
The small event with big intentions had several booths handing out information on everything from mental health support to planting a vegetable garden. The Peer Art Recovery Project provided music for the day.
Oscar Velasco from the Health Education Council and Network for Healthy California brought a bicycle-powered blender to make smoothie samples. The strawberry, mango and spinach drinks were a hit with young and old alike.
"A lot of people think it's just too expensive to eat healthy," Velasco said. "We tell them about farmers markets and farm stands. And we also encourage them to get physically active."
The group had hula hoops and jump ropes for children to use and handed out recipe books with healthy meal ideas.
Maxx Value Foods employee Sonia Navaro was among those browsing the offerings. The 40-year-old grew up in the neighborhood and said she'd like to see more events such as this in the area.
"We need it, especially in this neighborhood," Navaro said. "It seems sometimes they forget about us. They have things like this in fancy parks but not here."
Neighborhood Collaborative Executive Director Cleopathia Moore-Bell said spreading the word about healthy eating and activities to low-income families is essential. Her group has two other projects in the works which should begin this summer along the same lines. One is a community garden near the King-Kennedy Memorial Center, and another is the half-mile Helen White Memorial Trail, planned nearby.
"This is one of the most diverse communities with one of the highest disparities of health and one of the lowest incomes in the city," Moore-Bell said. "So we want to get the community together and show them how important it is to stay healthy."
At the same time, there is only one major grocery store in the neighborhood, Maxx Value Foods, though several of the neighborhood's smaller corner markets have signed on to the Healthy Eating, Active Living initiative and now sell produce.
Several hundred people stopped by the event. The University of California Cooperative Extension handed out more than 800 packets of vegetable and herb seeds.
Neighborhood resident Maria Camacho stopped by to get seeds. While they were out of the kinds of vegetables she wanted, she picked up information on how to grow tomatoes and squash.
"My husband has diabetes and says he has to eat better," said the 53-year-old grandmother. "I want to start growing my own food. This will be my first vegetable garden, so I think this is great."