Los Angeles schoolteacher and the founder of SugarWatch, Brent Walmsley, realized that his health had become out of control when he reached 320 pounds. With high blood pressure and cholesterol, just about every other measure of his health was also problematic. It even impacted his ability to obtain life insurance at 32.Brent is not alone. One in two Californians is diabetic or pre-diabetic. Thirty-one percent of California school-aged children are obese. Chronic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are the #1, #2, and #6 causes of death, respectively, in LA County.
Realizing the consequences of his obesity caused Brent to make big changes. He began to research and better understand nutrition, got back on his bicycle and lost 70 pounds. His research revealed just how much sugar is in everyday food products, and how this has lead to the staggering rise in obesity. What made the data especially compelling to Brent was how major food companies were saturating the predominantly low socio-economic communities he worked in with marketing for products with sugar.
With his newfound awakening, Brent enlisted teachers, farmers, and community advocates to collaborate and launch SugarWatch. The goal is to partner with schools to educate the community about the health impact of sugar, make fresh produce available through a mobile market, and advocate for improved nutrition policies.
In the spring of 2015, SugarWatch piloted programs and educational opportunities in schools in Los Angeles, Compton, Long Beach, Wilmington, and Gardena. SugarWatch was also recently named the recipient of a Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Grant.
This August, SugarWatch will be hosting its inaugural Sunset Bike-A-Thon. The 15-mile ride will raise funds for SugarWatch programming and help the organization reach its goal of retrofitting a school bus to serve as a mobile farmer’s market. This beautiful beachfront ride, with the ocean always on the rider’s side, will turn around in Redondo Beach. All riders will be invited to enjoy a beach bonfire and fruit roast celebration at the end of the ride. – KO
SugarWatch’s goal is to expand its impact throughout Southern California and help kids make changes to their diet-related habits, help families prepare more nutritious meals, increase access to healthy food, and help build healthier communities.