Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention (NEOP)
The Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch (NEOP) program, funded primarily by the US Department of Agriculture with the SNAP-ED grant, collaborates with Health System divisions, community agencies and residents to create changes using Policy, Systems, and Environment (PSE) strategies.
Using these strategies, NEOP staff strives to impact the state-wide obesity epidemic by increasing access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables, and promoting physical activity. With focus on low-income residents, our collaborative efforts are focused where community residents Live, Eat, Learn, Play, Work, and Shop in San Mateo County.
If you want to learn more about the NEOP program in San Mateo County, contact Ankita Tandel at 650-573-3511 or ATandel@smcgov.org
For information on the statewide Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch visit the California Department of Public Health site https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CCDPHP/DCDIC/NEOPB/Pages/Nutrition_Education_Obesity_Prevention_Branch.aspx
Meet the Team
Ankita Tandel, MS, RD
Director of Public Health Nutrition
I am currently the Director of Public Health Nutrition with San Mateo County. In my role, I oversee the Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program as well as the Nutrition Education & Obesity Prevention grant (NEOP) for the county. My goals and priorities lie in creating equity of resources throughout our community. By providing nutrition education to our county families and children, we are able to better provide them with a safety net of resources they need to succeed.
Liz Sanchez, BA Family & Consumer Sciences, Nutrition
Community Program Specialist
“I’ve had a passion for nutrition since my teenage years, when I saw many family members dealing with the effects of uncontrolled Type II Diabetes. As I saw my own family members getting diagnosed, this sparked an interest to research what could be done to prevent this disease. With my family as inspiration I received my Nutrition degree to help the low income and immigrant population prevent nutrition related diseases. I have been with San Mateo County Public Health since 2013 helping families make healthy choices. I lead the School Wellness initiatives and Social Media projects. In my free time I like to cook, bake, go on hikes, and eat my way through the Bay Area’s best vegan restaurants.
Gloria Cahuich-González, BS Human Development
Community Program Specialist
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development. I am passionate about nutrition as it really hits home with me and my family. I am a woman with family history of chronic diseases. I don’t want to add to the statistics, and anything I can do to help others avoid being added to the obesity epidemic is worth it! I lead the Champion Provider, Healthy Parks-Healthy People, the garden initiatives and SHINE project at NEOP. I love to read and/or listen to audio books. I also love nature, so I go hiking whenever I get chance. Purisima Creek and Wunderlick are my favorite go to hiking spots.
Sonali Suratkar, MHS
Community Program Specialist
I am excited to be part of a vibrant team here at the County since 2017. As a Public Health Nutritionist and author of Love thy Legumes, an educational cookbook, I am confident that nutrition education will continue to play an important role in shaping a healthier future generation. I feel passionate about serving the low-income community and our projects provide me with a great platform to do so. I bring rich experience in healthy retail efforts, evaluation, and data analysis and so it has been a natural transition for me to lead these projects at the County. Our collaboration with BANPAC and the State to promote access and availability of healthy choices has been a great success. I am exploring ways to make our projects sustainable. In my free time, I love to cook fancy meals, dance, travel and hike, take pictures or design something.
School Partnerships for Student Wellness
NEOP participates in this statewide recognition program that showcases the outstanding work that many California child care and development programs accomplish every day to promote the health and well-being of young children. In San Mateo County, Preschools SHINE sites feature optimal policies and health, nutrition, and physical activity practices that support children’s health and readiness to learn.
To learn more on the partnerships with local preschools, please contact Gloria Gonzalez Gcgonzalez@smcgov.org
For more information on the SHINE program, visit https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/he/preschoolshine.asp
Healthier Options in the Cafeteria
In partnership with schools and local farms, NEOP helps increase access to local and healthier food options in the cafeteria. By working together with the school district nutrition director and staff, we implement Cafeteria Promotion events a strategy to support farm to school efforts. During a cafeteria promotion event, a local and seasonal produce item is presented to the students with information of its origin. Students try fruits and vegetables that may be familiar to them and may also be introduced to new produce. By voting if they liked it”, “loved it”, or “not today”, students engage in food cafeteria decisions.
NEOP partners with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) to further link farm to school and connect the school community to the local farms. With CAFF’s efforts, students learn who their local farmers are and learn to appreciate the quality of local and seasonal grown produce. With these partnerships, NEOP strives to use simple strategies to create sustainable changes in the cafeteria that promote healthier food items to support student’s health.
School Garden Education
NEOP’s utilizes school gardens as a nutrition and environmental education tool to increase access to healthy foods while children learn. Through gardening, students become aware of the resources it takes to grow healthy food while given hands on opportunity to plant and harvest. Through the classroom and garden experience, students learn about the impact of the environment on the food we eat and the impact of the food we eat on their health.
All curricula is designed to teach English/language arts, math, science, and health, empowering children to make healthy choices, learn where their food comes from, and be role models in their school and home.
If your school is interested in garden education and/or training staff on garden education, please contact Nayan Patel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safe Routes to School
NEOP supports efforts of the Safe Routes to School program, by the San Mateo County Office of Education. The program encourages families to walk and bike to school by implementing activities that increase and promote safety on the route to school. By supporting an increase of physical activity for children, we aim to promote health and well-being for the whole family.
For more information on Safe Routes to School, visit their website HERE
California is experiencing an epidemic of obesity leading to costly chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, with low-income, underserved communities disproportionately affected.
The California Department of Public Health and the University of California, San Francisco launched the Champion Provider Fellowship program in 2014 to empower, train and support healthcare providers to use their expertise and respected voices to improve the health of the communities beyond the clinic setting using Policy, Systems and Environment (PSE) changes. Through this fellowship, NEOP partners with two local champion providers: Rachel Borovina, San Mateo Medical Center, and Sharon DiPierro, Ravenswood Family Health Center.
As champion providers, these pediatricians support the health of our communities by:
- Providing pertinent health information to city commissions
- Counseling school districts on implementing wellness policies
- Encouraging workplace wellness programs such as “Walk With the Doc” and other physical activity initiatives
- Promoting the importance of Safe Routes to Schools
- Organizing city-wide diabetes awareness events
- Establishing policies to screen for food insecurity during pediatric patient visits
- Supporting healthy retail store conversions
- Serving as a reliable resource on health for the media
Visit the Champion Providers website for more information on how you can bring a champion to your community.
Healthy Parks Healthy People Bay Area
The NEOP team participates in the National Park Service’s Healthy Parks Healthy People Bay Area collaborative which seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of all Bay Area residents, especially those with high health needs, through regular use and enjoyment of parks and public lands.
HPHP Bay Area Works to:
- Increase the use of parks by those who are at high risk for chronic disease
- Make sure that park programs not only encourage physical activity, but also offer social connection and support
- Foster stewardship among new park users through park programs
The collaborative accomplishes these goals through two initiatives: First Saturday and Park Prescription programs. First Saturday programs are introductory walking/physical activity programs that occur on the first Saturday of each month throughout the Bay Area. Park Prescription is a park program designed in collaboration between park and medical professionals. In partnership with our local Champion Providers, we strive to make healthier connections between residents and our local parks.
For more information on the HPHP program visit https://www.nps.gov/public_health/hp/hphp/about.htm
Our Community, Our Champions
Community Comes Together to Build Friendship Park
Friendship Park in Redwood City was established in 2014 through a collaborative effort between several entities: San Mateo County NEOP, the Sherriff’s Activities League (SAL), The Rotary Club of Redwood City, County Parks, Collective Roots, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and North Fair Oaks residents.
Housed in this public park is the Friendship Community Garden with 31 raised garden beds built for and by community members to plant, grow and harvest year round. The community garden provides an opportunity for everyone involved to learn about the importance of including plant based foods into ones diet.
The NEOP team involvement includes: creating agreements between the resident and County as well as monthly nutrition educational workshops in collaboration with the UC Master Gardener Program.
If you are interested in learning more about the garden and ways to be involved, contact Nayan Patel at email@example.com
Healthy Retail Program
The place where people shop for food has a significant impact on the health of the community members. Through the Healthy Retail Program, NEOP aims to support small markets and engage store owners to stock, highlight, and promote healthy food and beverage choices to their community. Our efforts are geared towards building a healthy community by working together with store staff.
Currently, NEOP works with Country Time Market and Oakwood Market, East Palo Alto, and El Paisano Market and El Mercadito Latino Market, Redwood City. Support our efforts to build a community of health by visiting these local markets and making healthy choices while you shop.