Wellness City Challenge – “Change the food, Change the future”
This begins as a story about a mother’s love.
In 2002, Cindy Gershen, chef, restaurant owner and the founder of Wellness City Challenge, faced a very difficult moment as she watched her son go off to war. He wanted to fight for his country; he wanted to fight for freedom.
Feeling the need to support her son’s dedication, Cindy decided to launch a different type of fight where she could make a difference. Her friend, Walnut Creek Schools Superintendent Mike DeSa, approached her about changing the food in local school cafeterias in response to parents’ requests. At the same time, in true serendipity, Cindy herself had just lost a significant amount of weight and felt empowered by her own success. In the past, her weight dominated her life and self-image. As she reflected back to her earlier years in school, she felt it would have made a difference if she had learned healthy eating habits.
In 2006, Cindy met Dr. Robert Lustig of UCSF, author of many academic papers and a popular book titled “Fat Chance,” who explained to her that our society’s exploding obesity rates are due to diets filled with fats and sugars rather than healthy eating.
Since that time, Cindy has been working with local school districts to create positive change for children through the school system. Courses are now offered at Mt. Diablo High School, in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, and the impact on kids and families has been immediate and life changing.
The students who have been part of the “Change the food, Change the future” program are learning to select, cook and eat healthy foods. One student said, “When I have children, I’ll make sure they are eating healthy foods.”
It is this foundation that has become the driving message of Wellness City Challenge. Through daily classroom education, a model program is being developed and expansion planned to roll out to other areas in the community. Positive change is actually being created now and for future generations.
When you ask Cindy what she feels she is contributing to her fellow human beings, her response is, “I am giving them freedom.”