Empowering Latinos to take charge of their environment and their educational future
Latinos are the largest minority, and soon to be the pluarity of the population in the United States by the year 2050, and yet representation within education and the green economy is woefully inadequate. The health and vibrancy of our Latino neighborhoods depend on embracing new green technologies, practices and education to be an integral part of the green movement.
Why we need to improve education in the green sector
• Latinas earned 61% of all bachelor's degrees awarded to Hispanics in 2005-06, but only 37% of bachelor’s degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. [NCES, Digest of Education Statistics, 2007]
• Latino males are much more likely to drop out of high school than other males. In 2006, 26% of Latino males 18 to 24 years old were high school dropouts, compared to 6% of white males and 10% of black males. [National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, Tables 105]
• Latinas earned almost two-thirds of the bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanics in biological & biomedical sciences (63%). However, women received only 22% of bachelor’s degrees awarded in engineering and in computer sciences and 45% of those mathematics and physical sciences. [NCES, Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, Table 275]
• Latinas lag behind males in degrees earned in all STEM fields except biology/sciences. In 2003-04, Latinas earned 70% of associate, 63% of bachelor’s, 52% of master’s, and 54% of PhDs awarded in biology/sciences to Hispanics. [NCES, Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, Tables 259, 262, 265, 268]
It is estimated that less than 5% of the total workforce in professional green technology will be of Latino background.
Why we need sustainable neighborhoods
Nearly sixty-five percent of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese and the numbers continue to rise, More than 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese or at risk for becoming obese and is the leading cause of health problems among Latino youth. Obese children are at a greater risk than normal weight children for developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and orthopedic problems. For adults, the potential health consequences of obesity include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers.
In addition to obvious health consequences, obesity creates a substantial economic burden for the U.S. The direct and indirect health costs associated with obesity are estimated at $117 billion per year nationwide, in the form of worker absenteeism, health care premiums, co- payments and out-of-pocket expenses.
Community garden programs with the following characteristics have the greatest potential to strengthen their communities:
1. Target or include lower-income residents Include neighbors of various ages, races and ethnic backgrounds Provide an open space for community gatherings and family events
2. Offer educational opportunities and vocational skills for youths Enable gardeners to sell their produce through a local farmer's market Build in a method to encourage the donation of surplus produce to food shelters.
3. Provide nutrition, food security & access. Limited access to healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, is a major barrier to healthy eating. Low-income, underserved communities are at the highest risk for obesity because they often lack supermarkets, leaving convenience stores or fast-food chains as the main source of meals.
Expensive fruits and vegetables may also be cost prohibitive for low-income families. Community gardens provide residents of underserved communities the opportunity to grow their own fruits and vegetables, increasing access and affordability.
4. Promote physical activity. The U.S. Surgeon General, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine, recommend getting a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week for adults and 60 minutes of moderately or vigorously intense activity most days of the week for children and adolescents. Unfortunately, nearly 40 percent of adults and 23 percent of children do not get any free-time physical activity.
Gardening is a recommended form of moderate physical activity. Community gardening can encourage more active lifestyles by providing children and adults the opportunity to exercise by stretching, bending, walking, digging and lifting tools and plants.