Admit it: Sometimes as adults we are just not in the mood to eat our vegetables and become bored of the same old salads.

In inner city Los Angeles, how do you get kids excited and willing to eat GREEN and healthy when there is a McDonald’s or other fast food option on every other corner, and places like Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s are miles and miles away?

You teach them how skipping breakfast is not cool, and how in 5 quick minutes they can transform 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup frozen peaches, 1/2 cup frozen pineapple, 1/2 banana, 2 cups kale and 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed into a tasty, Peachy Green Smoothie!

Ar'Lisa Foster, Healthy Hearts, Healthy Habits[1]Ar’Lisa Foster and her project, Healthy Heart, Healthy Habits Education Program was developed to educate and bring awareness to school age children on the various ways their lifestyle can impact their health and the environment. The program includes workshops, demonstrations and personal health profile development, addressing the ongoing concerns of childhood obesity, and giving students the tools to make healthier choices for life. On the day of her Green Smoothie lesson, Ar’Lisa had no problem getting students to eat their veggies, and even had them coming back for seconds!

So who is Ar’Lisa and how did she get kids to actually eat and enjoy their vegetables? She is teacher, community advocate, but most importantly she is my mother, my inspiration, and the reason why I have been able to overcome so many obstacles in my own life.

Ar’Lisa has had a heart for youth since 8 years old when she created a neighborhood tutoring and babysitting program for her friends. Her compassion for kids and helping them learn and succeed in life I believe is due to her own issues of neglect, and abuse she faced in her childhood. When she was a kid, it was hard for her to find a voice to ask for help, which fueled her to make sure this abuse never happened to her to me or my brother, and helped her succeed in touching the lives of hundreds of youth through her 30 year career working as a Aide, Teacher, Program specialist, and Assistant Principal with LAUSD.

Jamila BanksIn 2013 Ar’Lisa was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Failure, and along with other ailments, she was forced to retire early from the school district and has been on disability for the past few years, but it never stopped her from giving to her family and youth. When my family lost our home in 2014, she took us in a provided a roof over our heads and time to get back on our feet.

As she continues to struggle with her heart and health, she created this program to not only be of service to kids, but to help give them accurate and quality information needed to make wise and healthy choices to help combat the high obesity our community faces and to help lower the rates of future heart and health issues. By giving them information, and creating awareness on what to eat, what not to eat, how to exercise, and how to keep your heart healthy, she is giving them options and choices for better habits for years to come. Most of these kids have no idea about the real benefits of fruits, vegetables, and have no clue what a vegan is.

Knowledge is power, and power creates change. Ms. Foster is the perfect person to teach about a healthy heart, and nutritional options, especially as she works so hard to keep her own heart beating.