Maya Shahar, Community Health Promotion Specialist, County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency
When Nasara Gargonnu isn’t working as a physical education teacher at Morse High School, he is engaging the community in high energy health and fitness events as the Coach behind Sirius Fitness.
Sirius Fitness became a Live Well San Diego Recognized Partner on December 15th, 2016. To celebrate the fourth anniversary of “Sirius Fitness Day,” Gargonnu coordinated two community events including the screening of The Invisible Vegan and a fitness class. Both events were held at the Jackie Robinson YMCA where Sirius Fitness originally received its partner proclamation.
The Invisible Vegan depicts veganism from the African American perspective and explores the misconceptions, health benefits and history about plant-based diets in the African American community. The goal of the screening was to shift perspectives on plant-based diets and lower barriers to a healthy lifestyle. It is commonly thought that veganism is a more expensive diet and that a meal without meat is not healthy. The screening revealed how plant-based diets actually have positive health impacts in lowering risk for heart disease, which is one of the leading cause of death for African Americans.
"My main objective for having this event was not to make folks into vegans, but to introduce them to an alternative and healthy lifestyle choice. Too many misconceptions and false beliefs about a plant-based diet run rampant throughout the African American community and I want to change them through education," shared Gargonnu.
Following the screening, the audience participated in an engaging discussion on veganism with a panel of nutritional experts from Fit, Black, and Educated; Stepping Higher, Inc.; and PlantDiego. Twenty-eight participants attended the screening and shared their thoughts about the movie and a vegan diet. The panelists shared easy tips to help participants shift from a meat-based diet to a vegan diet, including simply taking out the meat in their dishes and keeping it flavorful by adding herbs and spices.
Attendees also expressed the need to hold more events like these to facilitate the adoption of plant-based diets in the African American community. “Events like this help it [plant-based diets] become part of our community because it has always been weird if you don’t eat meat,” shared one participant.
The County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency - Central Region worked closely with Gargonnu to coordinate and plan the event and provided a Nutrition Specialist on-site to lead a food demonstration of CalFresh Healthy Living recipes like Real Fruit Punch.
The screening event included a vegan meal consisting of salad and pasta with vegan sausage and quinoa which was prepared by students from Morse High School’s Culinary Program.
Sirius Fitness continues to move the Live Well San Diego vision forward by leveraging community partners, building capacity and encouraging healthy behaviors in the community. To learn more about upcoming events from Sirius Fitness, follow Coach Nasara Gargonnu on Facebook.