Sylvia Drew Ivie, the former chief executive officer (for 17 years), of the To Help Everyone Clinic (T.H.E.), is on a mission to bring healthy eating to South Los Angeles.
Drew Ivie noted with growing concern the increasing number of South Los Angeles residents seeking health care for diabetes, hypertension, and obesity related diseases.
“We saw record numbers of patients suffering from these illnesses,” recalls Drew Ivie, who, like other health professionals, recognized the correlation between chronic disease in neighborhoods that had a higher preponderance of fast food outlets and little access to fresh food.
Determined to bring healthy eating to the ‘hood, Drew Ivie launched the South Los Angeles Community Kitchen in February 2007.
“I wrote and presented a proposal to Dr. Robert Ross, president of the California Endowment. “The Endowment gave me a one-year planning grant to develop the idea of a Community Kitchen,” said Drew Ivie, who currently runs the kitchen out of her home.
Fixing healthy meals and educating the community about healthful eating, Drew Ivie has brought her “traveling kitchen” to numerous schools, clinics, and community facilities in South Los Angeles where she demonstrates healthy cooking and eating habits. Since launching the Community Kitchen, Drew Ivie said, the project has been a success.
“We’ve got to get to the people before they find themselves in poor health,” Drew Ivie declares. “I’m trying to keep people out of the clinics so that they can take better care of their health,”said the former hospital administrator, adding that poor eating habits is the biggest deterrent to good health. “All of us have the power to stay healthy and in control. If we have a chronic disease like diabetes or hypertension, we can control it by what we choose to eat. It’s not easy to do, but I try to provide help and alternatives for people who are trying.”
Drew Ivie meets once a week with health professionals who serve on her advisory board to map out goals and to discuss healthy eating alternatives. They include Karen Mack, CEO of Los Angeles Commons; Dr. Arlien Brown, a UCLA professor and a physician of internal medicine; Etha Robinson, a health teacher at Susan Miller Dorsey High School, Dr. Gilbert Ramirez, a professor of Urban Health at the School of Health Sciences at Drew University; and Lillie Hudson, a physician assistant at the South Bay Family Health Care Center.
“We talk about what we’ve learned, what questions we want to ask the participants, what groups we think are the most important to target, and how we’re going to fund our work,” said Drew Ivie.
Drew Ivie said she fully supports a recent moratorium passed by the Los Angeles City Council which has banned building new fast food outlets in South Los Angeles. “Our people are used to eating at fast food outlets, so our focus is on connecting people to traditional ways of cooking and eating to celebrate culture and also to promote health. We also try to create community in terms of connecting on a social level,” said Drew Ivie, who is the daughter of famed physician Charles Drew.
Drew Ivie has taken her Community Kitchen to Bret Harte, Foshay, Audubon and Bethune Middle Schools where she demonstrates novel and nutritious methods of making healthy snacks and veering children away from the lure of Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets. “I gave the middle school children a container of plain yogurt and asked them to taste it. Most of them made sour faces, because plain yogurt by itself does not taste very well,” Drew Ivie laughed. “Then I gave them baggies of fresh berries, granola and brown sugar and asked them to mix the ingredients into the yogurt. After they tasted the yogurt with the blended ingredients, they loved it,” said Drew Ivie, who said that many of the children revealed that it was their first time tasting yogurt, granola or fresh berries in a healthful blend.
Drew Ivie said she soon found that sharing the communal healthy eating experience with community residents develops a sense of camaraderie. “We did a demonstration at the Accelerated School recently, where we harvested fresh fruits and vegetables from their garden. The fathers harvested the vegetables. Then we walked across the street to the kitchen while the mothers chopped up the vegetables and the children set the table. We cooked the food and while we ate, we talked about how the parents could feed their families in a more healthful way. We also talked about some of the barriers facing inner city families such as time, money, and access to stores selling fresh fruits and vegetables. Some of the parents admitted that they were lacking in cooking skills because they relied so much on frozen, fast and take out food. In South Los Angeles, one of the issues is how to transform fresh food into healthy meals. What was unusual was having the time and space to talk about food together,” said Drew Ivie.
One of her recent demonstrations was held at the Nickerson Gardens Housing Project. “I had 10 or 15 kids make zucchini quiche,” said Drew Ivie, who also has held food demonstrations for prenatal and diabetic patients.
She routinely pours through recipe books to find the healthiest recipes that are also easy to prepare. “People really love the zuccini quiche, which resembles an egg pie. And the children love the yogurt mixed with berries in granola. We also make fruit dishes such as cut up mango and jicama with a slice of lime and a little chili powder. I shake it up in a baggie and then they dump it into a bowl, squeeze the lime on top and sprinkle the chili powder over it. It’s a healthy fruit snack.”
Another recipe that Drew Ivie frequently prepares is savory rice. “You boil two cups of rice, cut up four to five zuccinis, three tomatoes, chop up two and a half onions, add seasoning, which includes cumin seeds, salt and pepper and garlic, and that serves four people. You saute the zuccini in two tablespoons of oil. Then you add tomatoes, onions, three cloves of garlic and stir it around. Then you add olive oil, tomatoes, onions, cloves, zucchini, and add salt and pepper.”
Drew Ivie has big plans for the future to further promote communal cooking. “We hope to purchase a home so that we can have parent and child groups come in so that mothers can teach their daughters and fathers can teach their sons healthful ways of cooking and eating.”
“Healthy eating is important to all of us,” Drew Ivie maintained. “Whether it’s afterschool programs, HIV or diabetic support groups or prenatal parents-everyone has concerns as to how we’re going to feed ourselves in a way that’s joyful, healthy, convenient and affordable.”
Drew Ivie can be contacted at fdivie@sbcglobal. net or call (323) 828-6467.