APIOPA Launches a New Healthy Cooking Workshop Series!

By Kyle Tsukahira

Monterey Park, CA: On Sunday, April, 6th 2014 the Asian Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance (APIOPA) officially launched, “Connecting with your Roots,” a new healthy cooking workshop series aimed at teaching local community members not only about health and nutrition but also how to cook simple, healthy, and delicious meals using Asian produce. The first workshop took place at the Bruggemeyer Library in Monterey Park and had over 30 community members in attendance. APIOPA invited Chef May Chen out to share three simple Taiwanese vegetarian dishes that not only taste great but can also help prevent obesity and other health related problems. As a vegetarian for over thirty years, Chef May Chen shared, “My family has a long history of diabetes so I take extra precaution when it comes to my health and what I put into my body. I actually source most of the food I eat from my own backyard.”

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Obesity and obesity related diseases are a growing concern for many Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities in Los Angeles County. Nearly 7 in 10 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) in LA County are either overweight or obese [1]. While numbers in the Asian American community have not reached these levels, the prevalence of obesity in the Asian American community has been steadily on the rise. Studies have shown that obesity is directly linked to many health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer [1]. In fact, between 1997 and 2007, APIs had the highest jump in diabetes rates (5.9% in 1997 to 9% in 2007) out of all racial groups [2]

Perhaps more concerning are the rising rates of obesity among second generation and third generation Asian Americans largely due to the influence of American fast-food culture. In fact, a 2010 report shows that the obesity rate of third generation Asian Americans is significantly higher than first and second generation Asian immigrants [3]. The rate for third-generation males is 63% compared to 30% for first and second-generation males [3]. The rate for third-generation females is 45% compared to 21% for first and second-generation females [3]. This is not surprising considering the fact that over 70% of Asian American adolescents are consuming less than 5 fruits or vegetables per day [1]. For many Asian American youth, fried chicken and hamburgers have replaced more traditional plant based diets.

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APIOPA believes in tackling these challenges head on through creative and innovative programming that goes beyond simply telling people what to eat. APIOPA’s Roots Community Supported Agriculture (Roots CSA) program provides community members with access to fresh, sustainably grown, and culturally relevant produce as well as opportunities for local residents to learn how to prepare healthy vegetarian dishes through the, “Connecting with your Roots,” workshop series. “We are empowering community members to take health into their own hands by providing them with the skills and resources they need to thrive,” said APIOPA project specialist Kyle Tsukahira.

APIOPA will continue to host healthy cooking workshops once a quarter till the end of 2014. The workshop locations will rotate amongst the three Roots CSA sites (Historic Filipinotown, San Gabriel Valley, and Orange County). Please be sure to visit: www.rootscsa.org for more updates and information. APIOPA would like to extend a huge thank you to Chef May Chen, Amy Shih, and all the other staff, interns, and volunteers who made this event possible.


[1] Ponce, Ninez et. al. “The Sate of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Health in California Report,” (April, 2009)
[2] Los Angeles County Deparment of Public Health. “Trends in Diabetes: A reversible Public Health Crisis.” (November, 2010)
[3] Wang, Sofia et. al. “Asian Americans and Obesity in California: A Protective Effect of Biculturalism” (December, 2010)

Chef May Chen was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the United States in 1989. A vegetarian for more than 30 years, Chef Chen has owned and operated the “Veggie’s Delight” restaurant, promoting vegetarianism in her local community since 1990.

More recently, Chef May has cultivated her love for organic fruits and vegetables right in her own backyard, transforming it into an edible garden. Since her retirement from Veggie’s Delight, she volunteers her time, teaching cooking workshops at a Chinese Buddhist non-profit organization ”tTzu-Chi.”

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