Councilwoman Jan Perry is Leading Los Angeles to Healthy Living. Addressing childhood obesity, increasing access to healthy food in schools and communities, creating opportunities for regular physical activity and empowering families with information they need to make healthy choices – these issues are the pillars of Michele Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign – issues that It’s a Glam Thing friend Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry has been successfully tackling since 2001! Perry is way ahead of the curve and all big cities across the nation need to listen, watch and learn!
Now in her third term as the Councilwoman for the City’s Ninth District, Jan represents some of the most challenging communities in Los Angeles County – South Los Angeles, Bunker Hill, Little Tokyo and Central City East, commonly known as Skid Row. “I have always believed that a holistic approach is needed to improve the health and welfare of a community. With this goal in mind, I have worked on a multi-pronged approach through planning tools, policy changes and increasing access to fresh foods and recreation space,” says Council President Pro Tempore, Jan Perry.
Guiding Our Children to Making Healthy Choices
When Perry took office in 2001, she developed the first Nutrition Guidelines and Education Program for City youth programs. Perry worked in partnership with the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Commission for Children, Youth & Their Family to develop guidelines which aim to improve the health and well-being of pre-school and school-age children in Los Angeles at City facilities and City programs – (1) increase access to nutrition programs; (2) provide healthy meals and snacks that encourage healthy choices and (3) provide nutrition education to City staff and children that participate in City programs. The result was the addition and increase of items like juice, milk, water and fresh fruits and vegetables in vending machines and on the menus at City-run youth programs and facilities throughout Los Angeles. “However, offering healthy food options alone cannot solve the problem,” says Perry. “Children need places where they can be active and learn to love exercise. That is why I have made park improvement and development a top priority.”
Since 2001, Perry has invested over $52 million dollars in recreation and park facilities throughout the Ninth District, adding over 10 acres of new park land to the landscape. This includes a new South Los Angeles Wetland Park at 54th and Avalon — the site of an old MTA bus yard! “I also worked in partnership with City entities to bring fitness zones to six parks in South Los Angeles. These fitness zones offer free access to outdoor fitness equipment for the community so now parents can work out at free outdoor gyms with their children or while their children play at neighboring playgrounds.
Healthy Choices For The Community
Healthy food also needs to be made available not just for children at school and at City youth programs, but at home. How do we do this? Perry has the answer. “We must support and offer opportunities within our community to access fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy options.” To this end, Perry has helped create and support Farmers’ Markets throughout the Ninth District. “Right now, we have four markets!” beams Perry, “and the market at Central Avenue, which was started over six years ago, even holds good cooking classes on-site to help families learn how to cook with and incorporate seasonal market goods into their diet!” However, Perry acknowledges that access to fresh food needs to be about more than small markets.
Stop the Fat! Put Down Those Fries!
The Ninth District has been historically underserved and suffers from a lack of grocery stores and full service sit-down restaurants. “I looked around the community, spoke with residents and asked them what they wanted and the answer came in loud and clear,” says Perry. “The community wanted more family restaurants and grocery stores!” This is how the Fast Food Ordinance was established! This planning tool is designed as a stop-gap measure until the community is done updating the community plan. Previous decades of spot-zoning and neglect in planning these communities have resulted in an extreme lack of neighborhood retail and food options. “In South Los Angeles, there is limited space for development and the idea is to afford space for the development of neighborhood serving retail,” adds Perry. Distance separation requirements are being established in order to target the over proliferation of certain uses. A one-half mile radius will be required for stand-alone fast food restaurants, new motels, liquor stores, check cashing stores, auto-related uses, recycling centers and convenience stores without fresh produce. “In other words, these establishments will not be able to locate within a one-half mile radius of an existing use unless it sells fresh fruit and vegetables. This is one way to encourage a new business who wants to locate within the community to carry fresh produce!” says Perry.
Restaurant & Grocery Store Incentives
Perry also knows that to help create a healthier community and to attract new retailers like full-service grocers and restaurants it is important to offer business incentives. Perry worked with her colleagues to develop the Restaurant and Grocery Store Incentive Marketing Brochure which outlines incentives such as undergrounding of utilities, tax credits and help assembling land. “I am proud to say that, to date, two new grocery stores have been added to the South Los Angeles landscape – both are full and incredibly successful and I am working hard to bring more to our community!” In September, 2009, Superior Grocers had the distinction of being the first full-scale market to open in South Los Angeles in at last five years. And, in February 2010, Fresh & Easy opened its doors to a 10,000 square foot store offering organic, local produce, meat and poultry. The shelves are stocked with a combination of private label and national brand food and they sell no tobacco products or hard alcohol.
Youth Take Action!
Perry formed a strategic partnership with concerned high school students at the Accelerated School in South Los Angeles who took it upon themselves to fight obesity where it starts. They questioned what they eat, questioned the food choices around them, educated their peers and then took action. The students formed Healthy Eating Active Communities (HEAC) and spearheaded a local market makeover program. The program helps local mini-markets change store lay-outs so that convenience foods (chips, candy, cookies, etc.) are moved to the back of the store while fresh food items like fruits, vegetables, milk and meats are made more prominent. Perry also participates in and supports student documentaries and social networking sites as educational outreach tools designed to engage young people in a discussion of how they can help advocate for healthier communities. “This grassroots effort is essential for us to succeed in building healthy communities and stop childhood obesity before it starts. The HEAC students inspire me and they prove that we can make a difference!” says Perry.
“To find success and make a change, we have to work incrementally. Change does not happen overnight! These accomplishments have been the result of a deliberate and methodical effort that has spanned over the last nine years. We need to continue to build upon our accomplishments! says Perry.
It’s a Glam Thing sincerely thanks Councilwoman Perry for all of her hard work & dedication to this cause.
(Pictured: Councilwoman Jan Perry, photo courtesy of Bergman PR)