Lifetime Investment

Mia Sprowl Hernandez, 13, and her sister, Estrella, 10, display the sunflowers they found as they worked in the local community garden.

Mia and Estrella Sprowl Hernandez have been a part of the Nutrition Education Program for most of their lives. Mia was 3 and Estrella just 6 months old when their mother, Rosa Hernandez, met NEP Advisor Veronica Briles and decided to take her first class.

Rosa met Veronica in 2012. Veronica was completing her NEPA training and was representing the Huntington County Extension Service with a table at Huntington University’s Family Health Day when Rosa walked by, holding a 6-month-old Estrella.

“I asked her if she spoke Spanish,” Veronica said. “She said she did. We started talking and I told her about our program.”

That began the family’s decade-long involvement with NEP. Rosa’s first class with Veronica was “Raising Healthy Eaters.” Since then, she has taken each curriculum Veronica taught. She has worked for years with the Warren Community Garden, which was started by the Huntington Extension Service and is home to Veronica’s summer classes.

NEP Advisor Veronica Briles

Ten years later and the girls are strong and healthy. The family has no health issues. Everyone remains active. This year, they are starting their own garden. Rosa Sprowl Hernandez credits her classes with Veronica.

“It is the benefits of teaching my kids how to eat healthy,” Rosa said. “It is not being taught that much, but people need to know what to do to stay healthy. I grew up with my mother teaching us how to eat. But when I got older, I didnot always eat right.”

Rosa said she became concerned about the family’s dietary habits after she and her husband, Blaise Sprowl, had children.Rosa said her kids got sick often she was feeding them processed dinners. After taking Veronica’s classes, Rosa decided it was time for a change.

“We noticed that when we used to eat that kind of food, we were always going to the hospital with something,” Rosa said. “We don’t do that anymore.”

At 3, Estrella was helping Veronica harvest produce for area food pantries. Veronica said she is happy to watch the girls grow up.

“More than five years ago, we switched to this lifestyle. Since then, my kids haven’t been to the hospital or the doctor for bad colds or anything like that. I saw a huge difference with my kids’ immune systems. Their health is better. My health is good. I haven’t been to the hospital.”

She said her husband, Blaise, has benefited from the healthier changes, too.

“Diabetes runs in his family,” Rosa said. “He is not even close to being diabetic. His cholesterol is fine. No heart disease. Everything is just fine. We appreciate this resource.”

“She always tells me…she learns something new every time,” Veronica said. “I feel like she appreciates what we do for her and her family. It is a safe place for her and her family. It is a safe place for her to learn and for her kids to learn. She knows we are honest people.”

“This year she is going to do her own garden. It is all stuff she has learned from this project. She told me she feels confident that she will not kill her plants. I said go for it!”

Veronica said she is happy that her earliest students still value the program. Mia has been a part of her mother’s health journey from the beginning. One of the earliest snacks Veronica introduced the family to was pinwheels, created by wrapping a peanut butter-coated wheat tortilla around a banana. Mia loved that recipe.

“Her mother was telling me that was one of her favorite foods. I said to Mia, ‘Of course, you like that. That was your first solid food,’” Veronica said, laughing.