‘We can choose a better lifestyle’

Posted 04/15/2015 | By HealthCorps

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‘Vegan Moni’ to break down raw eating at Highway to Health Festival

Boyle Heights woman brings healthy eating to community in accessible manner

Los Angeles (April 9, 2015) – Another L.A. chef will be offering her culinary craftsmanship Saturday at the Highway to Health festival at Mendez High School.

Moni Perez, aka Vegan Moni, is a community-based chef, social worker and advocate whose mission is to empower people to eat healthier by implementing a more plant-based diet. She runs a catering service influenced by her Mexican and Arab roots, teaches cooking classes and leads workshops in her community to demonstrate that, even in food desert communities like Boyle Heights, “we can choose a better lifestyle.”

Boyle Heights is a largely Latino, low-income neighborhood east of downtown with limited healthy eating options. Within its 6.52 square-mile border, only four full-service grocery stores exist, according to the UCLA Department of Health Policy and Management. In contrast, there are more than 48 fast-food establishments.

Perez is also a breast cancer survivor and volunteer in the Spanish-speaking community. She never wanted to get into cooking, resisted it in fact, but after her health scare, shifted to a plant-based diet. Healthy eating isn’t an overnight switch, she says, you just start with small, approachable changes, such as:

  • using coconut oil instead of corn oil
  • using brown rice instead of white rice
  • using corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas

Perez is among three chefs providing cooking demonstrations and education at Saturday’s festival. Other chefs include Ron Russell, co-owner of SunCafé Organic, and Chef Marco Zapien of Melissa’s Produce.

The L.A. Highway to Health (#H2HLA) will be held Saturday, April 11, at Mendez High. In partnership with HealthCorps – a nonprofit founded by Dr. Mehmet Oz and his wife Lisa to combat childhood obesity – and the Active Alliance, a California-based partnership designed to educate and inspire children to become physically and mentally fit, the school will host:

  • special appearances by the L.A. Lakers and Laker girls
  • physical activities such as yoga, Zumba, tai chi and jiu jitsu
  • mental resilience activities, including meditation
  • nutritional activities, such as cooking demos, samples and a school battle
  • a walnut cracking competition, sponsored by the California Walnut Board
  • health screenings and tests

Saturday, April 11, noon to 4 p.m.

Mendez High School (main gym)
1200 Plaza Del Sol
Los Angeles, CA 90033
(off the 5 South – Mission Road exit)

PRESS: Members of the press are welcome to attend, as there will be powerful visual and story-telling opportunities. Please contact us to facilitate interviews before or after the event; we look forward to working with you.

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