Civic Engagement Projects
Food Justice Initiative Mobile Food Pantry
Report by Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez
Many families in North San Diego County lack regular access to food, especially nutritious food options. The need is especially acute among low-income, farmworker, immigrant, and non-English speaking communities.
NLRC began increasing access to healthy food through coordination of the first Mobile Pantry in North San Diego County. In collaboration with Feeding America, The Leichtag Family Foundation, The Bravo Foundation, the Farmworker CARE Coalition, and community leaders or líderes comunitarios of Poder Popular para la Salud del Pueblo, NLRC is facilitating access to food to families in great need.
The Mobile Pantry is part of a wider county-wide initiative designed to increase access to healthier and more nutritious food for families living in low income and isolated communities who often have health-related problems associated with poor diet and food insecurity (i.e. diabetes, obesity, etc.). In partnership with Feeding America, NLRC and the lideres comunitarios created a list of food items that meet nutritional recommendations and are culturally appropriate. Families receive 1-2 loafs of bread, 4 canned items, 1 box of granola or other cereal, and a bag of produce. Each family receives about 20 lbs of food. Although we have created a list of preferred items, what families actually receive may vary at each distribution; sometimes they receive additional products such as water, diapers, and other stuff not commonly given at food banks. Many of the families who receive food from the Mobile Pantry were affected by the wildfires in 2007 and are still recovering from suffering loss of property, employment, etc. Therefore, any product extra items they receive are needed and welcomed. Feeding America covers the cost of food and travel and NLRC provides staffing for coordination of logistics, distributions and community outreach and education...
Download a MS Word copy of this report.
Civic Engagement in Redistricting
Report by Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez, Fabiola Gastelum and Shinya Uekusa
NLRC led redistricting community education outreach efforts in North County, conducted a series of redistricting related activities in an attempt to assess the gaps, challenges, and opportunities for Latino, immigrant communities. Latinos and immigrants have had a long presence in the area yet their representation and involvement in political/civic affairs remains significantly low. Thus, by closely following a political process that occurs once in a decade but that has great political implications for communities throughout the country in particular for minorities and underrepresented groups, we are able to gain insight on the mechanisms in place that facilitate and/or hinder the involvement of Latinos
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This is an oral history project celebrating the rich cultural legacy and heritage of Latinos in the United States, California, and specifically, North San Diego County. Like pieces of a colorful mosaic, oral histories of elderly Latino residents are a secret archive, waiting to be discovered and brought to life for younger generations to better understand the past. This project promotes understanding and appreciation of living cultures and traditions by designing and implementing an array of activities including exhibits, cultural policy, publications, archives and resources. In collaboration with local historical and archival organizations, the project will preserve documentary records on Mexican/Latino history and culture.
LATINOS Y LATINAS EN ACCIÓN (ONGOING)
Latinos y Latinas en Acción, a committee formed by Latinos residents in the Mid–City Heights area of San Diego, is working to make improvements in their community and empower other Latinos residents. The NLRC has assisted this group with strategic planning and action plan development.
Former Foster Youth in Higher Education
Report by Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez and Shinya Uekusa
NLRC conducted a baseline external evaluation of the ACE Scholars Services program at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). ACE Scholars Services at CSUSM is a comprehensive program that supports former foster youth in their efforts to obtain a college education. The primary objective of the program is to improve their rates of matriculation, graduation, and career success by addressing unique needs of youth aging out of the foster care system. ACE Scholars Services provides assistance with college entrance forms, financial aid, and scholarship applications; academic, career, personal support counseling; priority registration, year-round on campus housing; and internship opportunities; emergency financial assistance, social activities; personal development training; and career assistance after graduation. The purpose of the evaluation is to capture students’ perceptions of program services, increase understanding of the impacts and value of the program, facilitate reflection and ongoing learning about how to strengthen and refine the program going forward. Students’ comments and recommendations will contribute to shaping the future of ACE Scholars Services at CSUSM.
For more information, please visit ACE Scholars Services program website at www.csusm.edu/ace
For our program evaluation report, please download from here
This pilot project explores causes of school expulsions of Latino youth in San Diego County, investigates support services available to parents, and facilitates parent advocacy efforts to support educational access for Latino youth.
SAN MARCOS ELEMENTARY NEEDS ASSESSMENT (2006-2007)
The NLRC has established a Community Partnership (CP) with San Marcos Unified School District’s San Marcos Elementary. Through the CP, the NLRC will work to coordinate resources that build on community assets and support creative solutions to challenges currently facing this school. Its goal is to serve as a gateway for local community-based resources and information to more effectively generate access to university resources and develop projects with academic partners and San Marcos Elementary teachers, students, parents, and administrators. In addition, the NLRC will work closely with faculty members and academic programs at CSUSM to support and expand outreach, community-based service learning, and action-oriented research in partnership with San Marcos Elementary.
SSS PROJECT (2006-2007)
The NLRC will conduct an evaluation of Student Support Services Program (SSSP) using a reliable and culturally-sensitive approach. The evaluation will be consucted using an online survey and conducting focus groups with CSUSM students. The evaluation will provide data for an assessment of SSSP participants’ experiences of program services; their relationships with SSSP staff, fellow students, and faculty; their perceptions of the effectiveness of SSSP in helping them achieve their educational goals; and their perceptions of the supportiveness of the overall CSUSM institutional climate. Through the NLRC program evaluation, SSSP staff will be informed how best to make programmatic changes that meet the needs of participants.
Text4baby: Mobile Health Technology
NLRC and the University of California, San Diego Department of Reproductive Medicine, with support from the Alliance Healthcare Foundation, conducted an evaluation of the text4baby service in San Diego County. Text4baby is a free mobile health (mHealth) information service that provides pregnant women and new moms with information via text message on their health and their baby’s health and connects them with health resources. Evaluation findings indicate that text4baby is increasing users’ health knowledge, facilitating interaction with their health providers, improving their adherence to appointments and immunizations and improving their access to health services. NLRC’s Text4baby evaluation results were featured by the White House
Agua y Salud: Water Quality & Environmental Health Community Study in Imperial County, CA
Report by Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez, PhD., Abraham Marques, Shinya Uekusa, MA., Anna Hoff, and Amy L. Ramos, PhD.
Approximately 3,835 households living in the rural agricultural zone (ag-zone) of Imperial County (IC) use canal water at home (IID, 2010). Imperial Irrigation District (IID) warns the public that water “provided by IID is untreated canal water and not suitable for cooking and drinking purposes” (IID Website). Therefore, IID requires residents living in ag-zones to secure a “safe alternative water supply” for drinking and cooking from an approved provider to comply with the California Safe Drinking Water Act.
This report, Agua y Salud: Water Quality & Environmental Health in Imperial County, California summarizes findings of a collaborative pilot community study between the National Latino Research Center (NLRC) and Comite Civico del Valle (CCV) designed to gauge water quality issues and community awareness of environmental hazards in Imperial County’s ag-zone. Findings suggest residents living in ag-zones possess general awareness of environmental contaminants in their surrounding but are less knowledgeable of water quality issues and how water contaminants affect their health. Study outcomes suggest water contamination is a prevalent silent health risk affecting thousands of individuals in Imperial County today.
The study assessed extent of water contamination in households residing near canals to gain a better understanding of the barriers rural communities face accessing safe water for residential purposes. The study utilized Geographical Information System (GIS) to identify and select participants. A Pre-Post Test research design was used to evaluate environmental health awareness and knowledge. The Pre-Test included a baseline survey of health and environmental pollution knowledge.
For the treatment, NLRC developed a popular educational intervention or “teaching guide” focused on water quality and environmental health. Utilizing the effective community outreach promotores model, NLRC/CCV worked with promotores to teach residents 1) how to test water quality levels in their homes, 2) how to reduce household pesticide use, 3) about potential adverse health effects of exposures to environmental hazards, 4) how to limit or minimize exposure, and 5) how to become more civically engaged in the community to improve prevalent environmental health and justice issues. The Post-Test included a survey to test awareness and knowledge gained during the intervention. To incentivize cooperation with the study and reduce attrition, participants who completed the study received a water purification system providing access to safe drinking water in their homes. All study participants were invited to attend the Environmental Health Leadership Summit (EHLS) in November 2011 and NLRC presented the findings of the study to the general public during the EHLS.
Enhanced and strategic collaboration among local, state, federal agencies and community organizations is necessary to address water quality issues Imperial County confronts today. Although the majority of residents in ag-zones might be familiar with environmental exposures and health risks, the general public can benefit from increased outreach and education customized to reach residents in ag-zones who use canal water. Additionally, provision of greater incentives and support programs and services to increase access to safe drinking water quality for residents who face economic barriers will benefit the community at large. Limited political awareness of political and legislative processes contribute to low levels of political participation and civic engagement in Imperial County.
Read full report, please click here to download a PDF copy.
Eastern Coachella Valley EJ documentary film project
Living with Environmental Inequalities; Life in the Eastern Coachella Valley (2012)
Documentary Commentary (Click here for a PDF copy)
by Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez, Director, National Latino Research Center
April 20, 2012
The National Latino Research Center at California State University San Marcos joins community residents of the Eastern Coachella Valley in their efforts to increase awareness and education about the community’s environmental justice struggle for clean and safe water, clean air, and an overall healthy community.
In solidarity with Coachella residents and human rights advocates, we have created the documentary, “Living with Environmental Inequalities; Life in the Eastern Coachella Valley.” Our goal is to provide an overview of the community’s history of environmental racism and classism as experienced by families who live, work, play, and learn surrounded by environmental hazards. Prevalent problems of arsenic in water, exposed raw sewage, illegal dumping of chemicals, pesticide drift and other environmental hazards afflict families on a daily basis making many ill and vulnerable.
In recent years, environmental justice education and advocacy efforts have coalesced bringing together government agencies, elected officials, funders, community-based organizations, and concerned residents to advocate for improved health. Some of the accomplishments achieved to date include the following:
- WATER FILTRATION SYSTEMS (2011) - Mobile home park Residents and California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. testified in front of the Senate and Assembly Budget subcommittee regarding AB2515 (Perez), and the need for Arsenic filtration systems. AB2515 was signed into law on It allows the state public health department to enact emergency regulations to govern the permitted us of point of entry or point of use water treatment by public water systems in severely disadvantaged communities in lieu of expensive centralized treatment. The bill was designed with the Coachella Valley in mind where high concentrations of arsenic in groundwater in the east side of the valley where thousands of mobile home residents rely on local well water where high concentrations of arsenic have been detected. The bill also provides a mechanism for emergency funding for the purchase of point of use and point of entry treatment filters that range from $135 to $300 per household. The bill remains in effect as a short-term solution with grant money available until January 2014. Local officials state that the long-term solution is a $22 million pipeline to the west valley where supplies are centrally treated but that such an endeavor is still years off for completion. For more information about AB2515, seehttp://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/drinkingwater/Documents/POU/ab_2515_bill_20100930_chaptered.pdf& http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/board_info/agendas/2011/dec/120511_7.pdf.
- OVERHAUL OF WATER AUDITS WITHIN THE CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION (2011) - Residents and California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. testified about CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission deficiencies. It resulted in overhaul of the water and audits division.
- AFFORDABLE WATER RATES AND PROVISION OF FILTRATION SYSTEMS (2012)- Residents of a mobile home park won litigation. The water rates were re-set to affordable levels and management was required to provide arsenic filtration system. For more information about this, seehttp://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/published/Final_decision/160229-06.htm.
- RESTITUTION FOR RESIDENTS IN MOBILE HOME PARKS (2012) – Residents and California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. testified in Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee in support of AB 1830 (Perez) which will provide restitution for future mobile home park residents who are overcharged. Before April, 2012 mobile home park residents did not qualify for restitution of overpayment. For more information about AB1830, seehttp://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201120120AB1830.
Although important changes are beginning to take place, greater focus and resources are needed to make the changes that are desperately needed. Therefore, affected residents seek protection from key federal, state and county agencies responsible for protecting public health and the environment. Until concrete solutions to protect the health of humans and the environment are identified and implemented, learning in schools is compromised, public health deteriorates, and overall productivity stagnates.
The following news articles bring to light stories from the Coachella Valley that describe the needs and emerging advocacy efforts to bring about change in the community. This list is intended to describe issues at a glance; however, ongoing research is necessary to continue documenting and tracking the community efforts to build a healthier community.
COACHELLA IN THE NEWS
East Coachella Valley IVAN’s
California Rural Legal Assistance
On Edge of Paradise, Coachella workers live in grim conditions
Neglected for Decades, unincorporated communities lack basic public services
Residents of Coachella suffer high rates of sickness
On Edge of a desert paradise, Coachella farmworkers live in putrid conditions
Mobile home park accused of overcharging for tainted water
Coachella Valley to Receive $53 Million for Air Pollution Reduction Projects
Latinos Protecting La Tierra
Feces Towers and Homelessness: Welcome to the Real Coachella
CRLA's Eastern Coachella Valley Tour: Environmental Agencies Witness Firsthand Health and Environmental Hazards Plaguing Community
Eastern Coachella Valley Fights Pollution: 3 Profiles in Environmental Activism
Designation of Environmental Justice (EJ) Areas for the Coachella Valley Pursuant to AB 1318
Community Worker Comes Home
For more information about Coachella’s environmental justice efforts, visit the East Coachella Valley IVAN website at http://www.ivan-coachella.org/.
Reducing Environmental Health Hazards in Substandard Housing
NLRC is evaluating the City of San Diego’s HUD San Diego Healthy Homes Collaborative (SDHHC) project in partnership with the City’s Environmental Services Department. The program addresses housing conditions that threaten the health of residents. Specifically, the program identifies environmental and safety hazards in the home and then implements cost effective measures, at no cost to the occupants, to create healthy homes for families and children living in San Diego. Overall, results show that the healthy homes intervention is cost-effective and it drastically improved household environments thereby improving children’s health. Additionally, this project meets one of the four vital components of effective asthma management practices outlined by the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) released in 2007 (i.e., environmental control measures to avoid or eliminate factors (“asthma triggers”) that contribute to asthma onset and severity). In sum, the project is increasing awareness and education teaching families how to effectively manage asthma and maintain a healthy home environment. NLRC’s evaluation is building evidence of effectiveness to improve environmental health among low income families living in the City of San Diego
Community Action to Fight Asthma (CAFA) is a state-wide strategic initiative focused on developing policies and best practices that reduce environmental asthma triggers among school-aged children. The NLRC serves as one of four Regional Centers for the California Endowment.
HEALTHY HOMES PROJECT (2005-2008)
The NLRC is working with Mid City CAN in the evaluation of their Proyecto CASA Saludables program; a three-year project designed to work with Latino residents in assessing the health and livability of City Heights rental housing and increase the knowledge of residents on tenant’s rights. The NLRC will assist in the development of the home health assessment instrument, analyze data, report results, and in identifying priorities for education and policy advocacy activities.
W. FULLERTON (2004-2007)
The National Latino Research Center has been subcontracted by St. Jude Medical Center to evaluate the “Pediatric Asthma Prevention Initiative,” a project of the West Fullerton Improvement Collaborative (Orange County). The project will use a multi-pronged approach to reducing the incidence of asthma episodes among children at high risk for asthma based on environmental conditions and lack of access to health care. The project partners will create a culturally appropriate structure for reaching residents and improving living conditions and health care access of southwest Fullerton’s under-served, low-income Spanish speaking community. This initiative is funded by The California Endowment and builds on the NLRC’s current work with the statewide “Community Action to Fight Asthma” Initiative.
PODER POPULAR (2005-2008)
The NLRC has been commissioned by The California Endowment to conduct the Poder Popular Program, an outreach project aiming to improve the health, living and working conditions of agricultural workers by engaging in grassroots leadership through the active participation of promotores comunitarios in North San Diego County.
RECYCLED USED OIL (2005-2008)
The primary goal of the project is to increase the rate of used oil and filter recycling by Latino immigrants living in San Marcos. Previous research has identified recent immigrants as being more likely to improperly dispose of used oil. Although education campaigns are currently in place that target both English and Spanish speakers in North County San Diego, these programs have not been designed specifically to meet the needs of the immigrant population. Unique barriers, such as lack of literacy and the need for financial incentives, have been identified by individuals belonging to this group. As a result, Community-Based Social Marketing offers a valuable approach to recognizing and addressing the needs of this group.