Helping Families Stay Healthy During Quarantine
Virtual Learning In Puerto Rico
Written by Elizabeth Austin, Media Relations Specialist
In January 2020, Nutrition Coordinator Suzanne Jimenez-Sanchez and her team in Puerto Rico were faced with a dilemma.
They had designed an in-person nutrition program to address the rising rate of childhood obesity that included activities in schools and hosting a community health fair. Then a series of earthquakes and the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to shelter at home. Suzanne and her team had to quickly pivot their program to at-home learning that would engage kids and their parents.
Now, thanks to the team’s innovative webinars and cooking classes, families across the economic spectrum have learned how to make easy, healthy recipes and stay active during the quarantine.
“We started with social media—sharing posts about nutrition and building interest—and we partnered with local leaders and schools to help get the word out,” explains Jimenez-Sanchez. “After we held our first webinar, everything came together. We hosted several webinars with families and included a questionnaire before and after each session to better assess and address their needs. When we learned that several households didn’t have internet access, we printed the webinar content and delivered it to those families, along with a $50 food voucher. For families with young children, we included a storybook about the importance of fruits and vegetables. We just kept brainstorming and adapting as things evolved.”
Jimenez-Sanchez and her team even went beyond their original program ideas, and began hosting live cooking demonstrations. They shared simple, healthy recipes that parents could make with their children—and that older children could make independently. As a result, 2020 ended up being a meaningful year for the team and the communities they serve.
“We heard from so many families, including a mother whose message I will always save,” Jimenez-Sanchez says. “She was grateful for the program and shared how much it had helped her family—especially her daughter, who had been struggling to stay focused while being home all day.”
As her team begins the new year, Jimenez-Sanchez is excited about the future. The nutrition program has been expanded from the two municipalities they worked with last year—Aibonito and Guaynabo—and will now include municipalities in the Arecibo region, including Lares, Utuado and Manati. The team also plans to incorporate agriculture and sustainability in lessons this year. They hope to launch 100 community and school gardens for kids and youth and, when it is safe to do so, provide in-person lessons in organic gardening. Until then, the program will remain virtual.
“You can always find a way to benefit your community,” Jimenez-Sanchez says. “Whether it’s through a simple phone call, social media or just jumping in your car and visiting a few families, there's no limit to what you can do when you combine nutrition and public health. That’s the beauty of it.”
Watch the video to see Suzanne and her team in action.