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Two women stand on either side of a sign affixed to a brick wall that says "Food as Medicine."

The first ‘Food as Medicine’ fair in Richmond gives people the food and tools to live healthier

on October 28, 2023

Colorful balloons decorated the Corrine Sain Senior & Family Community Center Friday, where close to 200 residents came for the “Food as Medicine Fair,” featuring music, yoga, Zumba, health screenings, raffles, lunch and bags of fresh produce and groceries for people to take home with them. 

More than 20 community organizations participated in the fair, the first of its kind for the center, providing information on everything from social justice to cancer. Sponsored by the Community Housing Development Corp. in partnership with the North Richmond Farm at Urban Tilth, the event promoted the “overall wellness of individuals,” said Latifah Abdullah, North Richmond Farm community engagement manager. 

A spacious room with exposed wooden-beamed ceiling and angular white walls in which are about half a dozen people milling about. We can's see their faces. Multi-colored balloons decorate the room.
“Food as Medicine” fair at Corrine Sain Senior & Family Center (Ruchi Shahagadkar)

The fair was called “Food as Medicine” to stress the connection between wellness and fresh food, which is lacking in some Richmond neighborhoods. “It’s better when people don’t realize they’re eating healthy,” said Marco Lemus, the Food as Medicine project manager at Urban Tilth, which distributes fresh produce in the community and teaches people how to cultivate it. “It shouldn’t be like this big obstacle.”

Those attending could grab a smoothie and get their blood pressure checked. They also could pick up literature from numerous organizations or engage in conversation with Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, Sheriff David O. Livingston and representatives from such groups as Fresh Approach, SOS Richmond and the Richmond Fire Department.

People lined up for information about Fresh Approach, which offers educational resources to promote healthier lifestyles, said Tia Neal, who does outreach for the program. The Concord-based organization brings locally grown produce and gardening skills to East Bay communities.

Rosy Ruiz-Velazquez in hot pink sneakers and multi-colored shorts and exercise top, he dark hair pulled into a pony tail is moving before about eight people who are trying to follow her Zumba moves.
Rosy Ruiz-Velazquez leads a Zumba session. (Ruchi Shahagadkar)

Many who attended the fair were like Robert Redmon, who pitched in by chopping fruit for the watermelon-eating competition, and Rosy Ruiz-Velazquez, who led the Zumba session.

“I think this is a great way to get the community together,” Ruiz-Velazquez said. “Lots of information about health for people that don’t know where to go, especially if you don’t have insurance and other resources.”

(Top photo: Janine Shaheed (left) and Latifah Abdullah stand by a “Food as Medicine” banner, by Ruchi Shahagadkar)

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