GreenStar Herbals Gets Planning Board Approval; Will Head to ZBA in August

A retail marijuana shop is one step closer to opening at the site of the former King Arthur’s strip club at 200 Beacham St.

Tuesday night, the Planning Board approved the site plan for the 3,800-square-foot facility by a 7-1 vote. The board also recommended that the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) grant a special permit for the proposal when it comes before that board on Aug. 13.

Planning Board member Mimi Rancatore cast the lone vote against the project, citing traffic concerns.

Rancatore noted that she has heard from drivers from the neighboring New England Produce Market who are concerned about the additional traffic on the site.

“Twenty to 30 additional cars per hour is still a lot,” said Rancatore. “There is a lot of traffic on that road, and it is very close to the casino in Everett.”

Representatives from GreenStar Herbals, the company proposing the pot shop, said they have worked closely with City officials and the police to alleviate traffic concerns at 200 Beacham St.

The revised plan brought before the Planning Board includes clearly defined entrances and traffic flow in the parking lot, as well as an appointment system for customers that will limit the number of customers at the store at any one time.

But Rancatore noted that the appointment system is only required for the first month of operation. City Planning Director John DePriest countered that any changes to GreenStar’s approved plans will have to come back before the Planning Board for approval.

Unlike the Dunkin (Donuts) next door, there will not be significant spikes in traffic at the shop during the day, according to traffic consultant Jeffrey Dirk of Vanasse and Associates.

“Any use on the site will generate traffic,” said Dirk. “But the nature of this use is not a significant traffic generator.”

City Manager Thomas Ambrosino spoke in favor of the project, stating it is a major improvement over the current condition of the property.

“In terms of the use, it is a strong proposal to revitalize this property with this use,” said Ambrosino. “It’s been a problem for the city for the four years that I have been City Manager, and probably for a generation before that. We have fought to keep that property from continuing as an adult-entertainment venue.”

Ambrosino said the adult-use recreational marijuana facility is the best the City can hope for at that property.

“Given all the other potential uses for the site, this proposal makes a lot of sense for the City,” he said.

GreenStar originally came before the city with a proposal for 200 Beacham St., but withdrew that proposal to make adjustments more in line with suggestions from City officials and residents.

GreenStar representatives noted that the new building will be an improvement over the existing two-story building on the property.

The new building will be one-story as opposed to two, and will be set further back from the road than the King Arthur building.

There will also be improved landscaping and traffic flow on the site, according to GreenStar officials.

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Island End River in the Midst of Major Flood Protection Project

Few places in the food supply chain for Greater Boston and beyond are more vulnerable than the New England Produce Center.

That huge food resource for the region, along with other industries, are very close to sea level and, as discovered a few years ago, very prone to flooding and sea level surges.

Now, the City of Chelsea is poised to begin a major project at the Island End River that will help to protect the industrial areas along Beacham Street and enhance the environment around the improving Island End River.

“That area is about six or seven feet above sea level now, and experts expect sea level and storm surges at 14 feet above sea level by the end of the century,” said Alex Train, of the Chelsea Planning Department. “This project is in concert with Everett and it’s gathered a lot of momentum. It’s a priority of the City Manager and our department because we understand how much is at risk. It’s a gamble otherwise and we don’t like to gamble in the planning industry.”

Such a gamble was clearly seen two winters ago when huge coastal surge storms lifted the water levels into the industrial areas along the Island End, nearly causing major disruptions and opening a lot of eyes to the vulnerability of the situation.

The project has been supported by a grant from the Coastal Zone Management Office, as well as the Chelsea and Everett City Councils.

The project includes gray infrastructure, such as flood walls and berms by the Island End River. It also includes green infrastructure with the restoration of the salt marshes abutting the Island End. At the same time, they will also be able to add some amenities for the public like a Boardwalk to connect to the Admiral’s Hill Marina area.

“It’s going to be a sizeable project, but in the context of the surrounding industrial businesses and the produce center, it’s easily a worthwhile initiative on our end,” said Train.

Right now, in Chelsea, they are at 60 percent engineering design on the project. Everett is a little bit further behind as they are in the Designated Port Area (DPA) and require many more steps. Everett is currently in a schematic design phase.

On the Chelsea side, Train said they will culminate design this summer, and then look for further grants this winter. Then they will engage in the final engineering, permitting and construction phases.

The project will also be tied into the large Beacham Street roadway, sidewalk and bike path improvements that are also coming soon.

A report in 2015 by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) showed that the Produce Center generates $2.3 billion of economic activity per year, and the entire industrial district generates $7 billion per year. There are 5,000 direct jobs there and 10,000 supportive jobs there.

“Many of that activity and those jobs benefit Chelsea and Everett residents and they are solid middle-class jobs and we’re committed to protecting them for our residents,” said Train.

Other Development Activity

•The City has received a PARC grant for rehabilitation of the O’Neil Playground on the hill up from Williams Street. The new design will encourage water features and tree canopies. The restoration will look to prevent heat islands and provide a cool place during the summer. The project is currently under construction and should be substantially completed by the fall. It came in at a cost of $884,000.

•The Eden Street playground is currently in design. The new design will also feature a robust tree canopy and more permeable surfaces. The project will be bid out in September, with a fall start. Construction will start up again in the spring for a substantial completion by summer 2020. That project was supported by a $400,000 PARC grant.

•Voke Park is another area that will soon receive more attention. The Bocce Court and fields were done over two years ago, but now it’s time for some attention to be paid to the playground. Already, they have had one public meeting to get input on the park, and they are working on conceptual designs now.

“We’ll apply for a grant in July to secure funding,” said Train.

Design will be done in June 2020 and construction on that is likely to be 2021.

•The City is preparing to modernize the traffic signals and intersections at Williams/Chestnut and Williams/Broadway this summer. That upgrade will include new Smart Traffic Signals that are able to read the traffic flow and adjust signal timing on the fly. One of those lights has already been installed on Broadway and Webster earlier this year. Sidewalks will also be touched up as well.

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Two Finalists Vying For Massport CEO Job

The Massport Board of Directors announced that Boston Planning and Development head Brian Golden and Massport’s Port Director Lisa Weiland have emerged as the two finalists who will be considered for the Massport CEO post.

The Massport board will meet during a special meeting Thursday and make its final decision on whether it will be Golden or Weiland for the $300,000 a year job that will oversee Logan International Airport and the Conley Shipping Terminal in Southie.

After a nation-wide search that included 170 applicants for the job the Massport board cut the list down to 40, then 10, then four before Golden and Weiland emerged.

“I want to hear three things from the two candidates; their vision, how familiar and experienced they are in working the levers of local and federal government, and maybe most importantly, what experience they have working with local impacted neighborhoods,“ said Massport board member and Eastie resident John Nucci. “Those were former CEO Thomas Glynn’s strengths and it’s what we need again right now.”

In 2016 the Massport board voted to promote Weiland from Acting Port Director to Port Director.

Wieland has served as the Acting Port Director since March of 2015 and previously as Maritime’s Chief Administrative Officer. As Port Director, she oversees planning, development, marketing, operations, security, financial management, administration and maintenance of all of Massport’s non-aviation properties. Before joining the Maritime team, Wieland served in several roles at Massport, including the Director of HR Strategy and Employment and the Director of Corporate Planning and Analysis. Wieland has been with Massport since 2006.

Prior to her employment with Massport, Wieland worked as a consultant for Bain & Company serving health care and consumer products clients, and for CNN in various news and political assignments. She received her B.A. from UCLA in Political Science, and her M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

As BPDA Director since 2014, Golden functions as the BPDA’s chief executive. He oversees the agency’s core missions of community-engaged planning, regulation of major real estate development, management of the BPDA’s real property, and workforce training programs.

An attorney since 1993, Golden is a former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he served the Allston-Brighton neighborhood of Boston. He was also the New England Regional Director at the US Department of Health and Human Services, a Commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy, and a member of the Board of Directors at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.

Golden has served as a U.S. Army officer, active duty and reserve, for more than twenty years. His military experience included duty in Bosnia, Iraq, and Israel/West Bank.

Golden is a graduate of the Boston Latin School and Harvard College. He received a Master’s degree from the U.S. Army War College and a law degree from the College of William and Mary’s School of Law.

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GreenRoots Hosts Pop-up Park on the Chelsea Walk Bringing Smiles to the Community

By Giselle Barahona

GreenRoots, with a generous grant from the Chelsea Cultural Council, hosted a pop-up park in the Chelsea Walk for residents of Chelsea during peak lunch hours recently.

The organization set up a turf lawn, lawn chairs, jumbo games like checkers and Jenga, art supplies such as sidewalk chalk and paints, and even a cotton candy machine that attracted residents in the area to stop by and enjoy the day. Many families were drawn to the event. Kids enjoyed running around trying all the snacks and drinks and playing in the park with GreenRoots staff. Parents enjoyed spending time with their children, outside in the lovely weather, listening to music, eating snacks and learning about how they can become more involved in their community.

Various produce and plants were given away to folks from GreenRoots’ urban farm for families to grow and enjoy at home.

The Chelsea Walk, located on Broadway in Bellingham Square in the heart of Chelsea, links public parking behind businesses to the busy sidewalks and businesses of Broadway.

Previously considered a bleak and underutilized space, GreenRoots led a major transformation of the area with a grant from MassDevelopment that was matched by more than 270 individual donors. Now, the Walk features a beautiful, color and culturally representative mural painted by local muralist Silvia Lopez Chavez.

The mural, entitled “City of Dreams” reflects a diverse multi-cultural background Chelsea celebrating the city’s rich cultural and ethnic history.

The Chelsea Walk is now a beautiful public space where the community can gather to enjoy and celebrate the vibrancy of community.

In order to continue to ensure the newly revitalized space gets utilized and to bring the community together, GreenRoots organized a public event in the form of a pop-up park.

“The event was great! It acted as a community unifier,” said Avery Hammond, GreenRoots summer intern and one of the organizers for the event. “We had some 90 year old. We had some 5 year olds. We had people from every walk of life. People who were passing by could come and enjoy themselves… people saw it as a nice surprise for the community, and to do it in that way was really rewarding to see all the smiles on the kids’ faces.”

“There were a lot of families there! I thought was really sweet to see kids playing and interacting with their family members,” said Leilani Mroczkowski, GreenRoots Food Justice Organizer and Youth Coordinator. “We gave out lots of plants and we got to talk about the different things that are happening here at GreenRoots, like our kayaking events and our community farm days.”

GreenRoots is located at 227 Marginal St. in Chelsea, and has some great events planned for the community for the rest of the summer. GreenRoots will host free kayaking and canoeing events at the docks located at 201 Marginal St. on Thursdays, June 27, July 25, and Aug. 15 from 5-7:30 p.m. There will be food, drinks and music. So, bring your family and come down to spend some time enjoying the beautiful summer weather and the Chelsea Creek.

As part of their Urban Agriculture and Food Justice Program, GreenRoots will be hosting community farm work days where community members can farm and harvest produce on the Chelsea’s First Urban Farm. Stop by on Thursday, June 27 from 1-3 p.m. on Miller Street in Chelsea to learn more about food justice and the urban farm! Also, look out for more dates being added on GreenRoots’ Facebook page.

GreenRoots will be surprising the community with more pop-up parks throughout the summer in various locations highlighting the beauty of Chelsea and bringing the community together for a great time! Follow us on Facebook for more details.

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CHS Class of 2019: Deedee Hernandez is 2019 Valedictorian; Salutatorian is Jocelyn Poste

The surf is up for Chelsea’s Deedee Hernandez, who might be the first and only Chelsea High valedictorian that doubles as a surfer, a trumpet player and Ivy League student.

Hernandez has been very active in the school and community over the last four years, but being at the top of her class wasn’t something she thought would happen.

Valedictorian Degree Hernandez with Salutatorian Jocelyn Poste after graduation on June 9

“Honestly, I wasn’t aspiring for the valedictorian of the class,” she said. “My only goal was just to get into a college. That was a goal since I entered middle school. My mother always told us that we had to go to college. That was always a goal we were reaching for.”

And not only did she reach it, but she grabbed onto a great school in the Ivy League Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Hernandez, 18, said she was drawn to the rural landscape – being interested in the outdoors and hiking – but was also impressed with the alumni network.

“I was really drawn to the alumni network they have,” she said. “A lot of them come back to the college and have relationships and share their experiences with students. I thought that was very unique. The college is very small and it felt like a family and people were friendly.”

At Dartmouth, Hernandez hopes to major in environmental science – something she was drawn to by her swim coach, Traverse Robinette, at the Jordan Boys & Girls Club.

In addition to swimming twice at the National Championships in Florida, Hernandez and several other Chelsea kids joined Robinette’s surf club. When surfing in Connecticut and Rhode Island, the students learned about the various animals in the ocean.

“My swim coach was passionate about the environment and pointed out the animals we saw,” she said. “I did research on it and was drawn to the idea of preserving these animals. I love nature and being outside, so it’s something I’m very interested in.”

In addition to those pursuits, Hernandez is well known for playing the trumpet in the band – having been the designated performer of ‘Taps’ for the City and the Soldiers’ Home for four years.

She said she started playing in fifth grade when her former band teacher, Mr. Thomas, picked up a trumpet and played ‘Reveille.’

“I heard him play that and I knew I had to play the trumpet,” she said.

She does plan to pursue the trumpet in college and hopes to play in their orchestra.

Hernandez has gone to Chelsea schools her entire life, starting at the Silber ELC, moving on to the Kelly School, then to the Clark Avenue Middle.

Hernandez credits her mother, Ana Moscoso, for always pushing her to reach higher.

“My mother was always the type of person to asked me what I would do next after I had accomplished something,” she said. “I’ve found that to be useful because you see what else you’re capable of doing and don’t get satisfied with one thing.”

Hernandez has two brothers, Mike, 16, at Chelsea High; and Akanni, 10.

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Speaker Deleo Prepares for the Future

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo this week unveiled the details of the plan he announced last February that will provide $1.3 billion to combat the ever-increasing effects of climate change. Among the major aspects of the plan will be the awarding of grants to cities and towns across the state to encourage green energy initiatives and climate change resiliency efforts, which are particularly needed for our vulnerable coastal communities.

The grant program, called GreenWorks, would be funded by $1 billion in bonds and paid out over a decade. The program, to be run by the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, will allow local governments to seek grants for a variety of projects that will focus on climate change preparedness and clean energy production in order to reduce carbon emissions.

The bill also would set aside an additional $295 million in state spending for energy infrastructure, including $100 million for municipal microgrid systems to increase the resiliency of the electricity grid and $125 million for electric vehicles in municipal fleets and regional transit authorities.

There no longer is any dispute that climate change is occurring and that our coastal communities, including the City of Boston, are ill-prepared at the present time to address the twin threats of rising sea levels and more powerful storms.

Speaker DeLeo’s GreenWorks initiative represents a major step forward in protecting our vulnerable coastline, while at the same time creating jobs in the green energy and clean tech industries.

Given the urgency and pressing need to address the issue of climate change, which is occurring at an ever-accelerating pace, we urge our state senators to join with Speaker DeLeo and the Mass. House in presenting a bill for Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature by the end of this year.

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Finally, Some Good News On the Environmental Front

Every few weeks — or even more often, it seems — we learn of some new, looming catastrophe for our planet because of the combined effects of climate change and the degradation of our environment by human activity.

Everyone agrees that the climate is changing, and that it will have far-reaching consequences that we only can imagine. So too, the activity by the seven billion persons with whom we share the earth is destroying the natural world at an unprecedented and ever-accelerating pace.

So it was with some degree of relief that we read the annual report by the organization Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, which informed us that our major metropolitan beaches never have been cleaner (in terms of water pollution) and safer for recreational swimming and other activity.

As lifelong residents of this area, we always are amazed that the beaches with the cleanest water every year are the M Street Beach and the City Point Beach in South Boston — go figure — but we’re sure there is a logical and scientific-based reason for why these two beaches have achieved ratings of 100-percent for the past six years.

However, almost all of our metropolitan beaches, from Nantasket Beach on the South Shore to Revere and Winthrop beaches on the north, improved their ratings in 2018 compared to their six-year running-average. Winthrop Beach, for example, attained a 100-percent rating in 2018 compared to a 97-percent rate for the previous five years.

There are many factors that contribute to a beach’s water quality. There are natural effects, most notably the amount of rainfall over the course of a season or over a short time period. The diligence of government agencies at the state and local levels in assuring that sewer connections are working as intended are a vital part of the equation.

We as individuals also play a key role in assuring that our water stays clean by making sure we don’t dispose of our trash and hazardous waste into our waterways, by using the pump-out services for our boats, and by picking-up after our dogs.

The clean and healthy beaches that we enjoy today are the product of three decades of hard work, effort, and great expense by officials and the residents of the Boston Metro area. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. We must commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes in the years ahead to ensure that our region’s greatest resource — our beautiful coastline — remains clean and useable both for ourselves and for generations to come. So we wish to thank Save the Harbor/Save the Bay for issuing their annual report card on the state of our beaches — and for giving us some good news, for a change, about our environment.

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Rollins Speaks at Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

Suffolk County District Attorney announces community meeting in Chelsea on June 19

Rachael Rollins, the dynamic district attorney who became the first female elected to the esteemed Suffolk County position last November, was the guest speaker at the Chamber of Commerce Luncheon Wednesday at the Holiday Inn/Boston Logan Airport Chelsea.

Rollins proved to be as dynamic a speaker as she is a public official.

“The people that are most impacted negatively by the criminal justice system – it has nothing to do with race and almost everything to do with poverty,” Rollins told the luncheon audience. “If you can’t afford somebody who can navigate fluently through the criminal justice system – you are at a significant disadvantage.

“I don’t care what hue your skin is – if you have no money, the system does not work well for you, period, end of story,” said Rollins.

In well-received remarks, Rollins spoke about the DA’s mission as the chief law enforcement office of Suffolk County. She addressed serious issues such as the opioid crisis. She talked about the marijuana industry and law enforcement’s efforts in the field since recreational marijuana became legal in the state.

Chamber President Joseph Mahoney noted Rollins’ achievements as a Division 1 college athlete at UMass/Amherst. While at UMass, she challenged school leaders to increase the number of athletic scholarships given to female students.

Rollins also used the forum to make a major announcement: she will hold a community meeting on June 19 at 6 p.m. at the Chelsea Senior Center.

It is the second such quarterly meeting in the county following the inaugural session in Roxbury. It will be in the style of a state of the union/state of the city, followed by a question-and-answer session.

Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson and Chelsea Police Community Engagement Specialist Dan Cortez praised Rollins’ initiative to host a community meeting in the city.

“A community meeting on a regular basis is a great idea,” said Robinson, an early supporter of Rollins in her campaign for office. “It follows through on her pledge to be accessible and accountable to our residents. I expect to see a tremendous turnout of people welcoming her to Chelsea on June 19 and learning about the important role the DA’s Office has in our lives.”

Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes was a guest at the luncheon while Roca Assistant Director Jason Owens, who provided an overview of Roca’s efforts during brief remarks, led a delegation from the agency.

Rollins called on Kyes to elaborate on the challenges facing police officers in regard to the new marijuana laws.

“We have individuals in the state, police officers in the state who are known as drug recognition experts (DREs),” said Kyes. “There are only about 200 DREs out of 17,000 police officers, including the State Police. At the end of the day, when an officer sees somebody and they’re unsteady on their feet, bloodshot eyes – they could potentially get probable cause to make an arrest, but then without that DRE to do an added evaluation, when it goes to court, these individuals aren’t getting convicted.

“Right now, some judges will allow the testimony pf a DRE and some will not,” concluded Kyes.

Rollins’ remarks were videotaped by Chelsea Community Cable Television. Executive Director Robert Bradley said the luncheon will begin airing on the cable television station.

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Chelsea Fatal Fire Determined to Be Caused by Electrical Problems

Chelsea Fire Chief Leonard A. Albanese Jr., Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Suffolk District Attorney Rachel Rollins announced the cause of the May 3 fire at 48 Watts St., a 2-family home in Chelsea, was electrical.

A quick-moving fire on Watts and Highland Streets last Friday, May 3, claimed the life of one 37-year-old man and caused extensive damage. Investigators said there were major problems with smoke detectors in the home and first-responders reported not hearing any alarms upon arrival.

The fire took the life of an adult man believed to be a relative of the occupants of 48 Watts St. The victim was identified as Milton Lopez, 37.

In the dense neighborhood, the fire spread to rear of 107-109 Highland Street.

The fire originated in a void space above the suspended ceiling of an enclosed porch. Investigators determined that an electrical event took place in the area of origin where there were numerous electrical circuits. Just before the fire was discovered, residents reported that the lights in the first floor kitchen, the room next to the porch, went off. The victim was found on the enclosed porch.

Chelsea fire investigators, Chelsea detectives, and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and to the Office of Suffolk District Attorney Rachel Rollins jointly investigated this fire. The Chelsea Inspectional Services Department, State Police Crime Scene Services and the Department of Fire Services’ Code Compliance Unit provided assistance.

The home had a mixture of working, missing and disconnected smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and heat detectors. All of the alarms found in the home, whether they were disconnected, lying on a shelf, or actually functional, had expired and were more than 10 years old. First-arriving firefighters report not hearing any alarms sounding.

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “May is Electrical Safety Month and electrical fires are the second leading cause of fire deaths in Massachusetts behind smoking. It’s important to have a licensed electrician check out your system every ten years to prevent problems.”

For more information on electrical fire safety go to: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/electrical-fire-safety.

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Cocinas Program Looks to Promote Healthy Eating with Traditional Foods

Cocinas Program Looks to Promote Healthy Eating with Traditional Foods

When Jose Barriga was working as a translator at an area hospital, he routinely saw a cycle of poor health from his Latino patients that seemed to be caused by the food they ate.

Jose Barriga (center) discusses the Malanga with Bessie Pacheco and Alicia Castillo on Monday during the Cocinas Saludables Seminar program in Chelsea this March. Participants in the two-week class meet at the Chelsea Collaborative and travel to Stop & Compare Supermarket in Bellingham Square to discuss healthier alternatives in cooking traditional Latino dishes. The class continues on April 1 where participants will cook a traditional
meal using the new techniques and ingredients.

Many of them new to the country, or having come as adults, food and cooking and daily life was far different than in their native countries. Yet many still cooked and ate in the same ways that they did when they lived at home.

Doctors suggesting that patients give up their traditional food was a non-starter, even if they agreed to it at the hospital.

Above, Grisalda Valesquez examines a package of garlic.
Below, Leslie Garcia examining Goya brown rice with Grisalda Valesquez.

At the same time, Barriga saw that something did need to change, but maybe not altogether.

That’s what bore the idea of the Cocinas Saludables program in Chelsea, which is in its second year and is a partnership with the Cambridge Food Lab, Chelsea Collaborative, and Healthy Chelsea.

“What I realized when I was interpreting is there is a big problem in communication between health care providers and the Latino community,” he said. “A doctor will say you need to change how you eat, usually suggesting to cook brown rice or eat other foods. They have the best interests, but the language is not effective. I was seeing a cycle. I saw mothers with diabetes bringing children who were overweight. The issues they were having in large part was due to the foods they were eating or their cooking techniques. This is a huge, huge problem from a public health perspective in the Latino community.”

What Barriga and the other partners are trying to do is create the best of both worlds.

They’re looking to have their arroz con habichuelas, and eat them too.

Anais Caraballo of the Collaborative said they are excited to host the class for a second year, and said she sees a great value in educating people on how to cook traditional foods in a more healthy manner.

“I think it’s very important coming from a Puerto Rican background,” she said. “It’s a great program to have the community become more aware of healthier ways to eat and cook, but at the same time still be able to enjoy cultural foods that are an ingrained part of their lives.”

On Monday, Barriga and a class of 10 people met in the Collaborative to talk about foods and cooking and how people thought about food. That was followed up with a trip to Stop & Compare – a loyal partner to the program. There, those in the class walked through the aisles with Barriga to look at ingredients in their traditional foods.

Armed with materials from their class, and the advice of Barriga, they looked at the ingredients they usually buy, and considered alternatives that were healthier. In that sense, they didn’t have to give up the foods that meant so much to them, and they could also ensure they were eating healthy.

Barriga said he customizes the class according to the culture. If there are a lot of Caribbean cultures in the class – such as Puerto Ricans – he will discuss different ways of cooking aside from frying – as well as using healthier oils when cooking the food.

“When it comes to the Caribbean community, it’s talking about fried foods, which is a constant in the Caribbean diet,” he said. “My proposal isn’t to be 100 percent healthy options. If you come and say you have to change everything you eat, people won’t do it. I give them a couple of changes that will help their overall health in the long run. I try to be realistic. For the Caribbean cultures, I tell them to avoid fried foods sometimes, and try to sauté a little more so they use less oil.”

Another issue is that many people who have just come from outside the United States arrive and find food cheaper and more accessible. For example, a family in El Salvador may only have had meat one time a week. However, in the U.S. they find they can have it seven days a week, and they do that.

“If you grow up poor and food was a problem, then you come to the U.S. and food is plentiful,” he said.

That is also true when it comes to activity.

Many people had a similar diet in their home countries, but they often had to walk or bicycle many miles each day just to do simple tasks. That active lifestyle and different climate helped to regulate their diet.

Once here in Chelsea, they find themselves far less active and in a climate that is inhospitable to them six months of the year.

“I call that the food-culture clash,” he said. “They have no cars in many Latin American countries. They walk or they bike. People come here and they get overweight because it’s very comfortable. They drive and there is a lack of physical activity, which is a major symptom of being overweight.”

Next Monday, students in the Cocinas class will gather the remainder of their ingredients and cook up traditional foods with a healthy twist.

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