UCLA Health partners with AHA, Dodgers Foundation, Lakers and more to provide for families during pandemic

‘We know that many are still being affected by COVID-related challenges and food insecurity’

On June 5, UCLA Health, the American Heart Association (AHA), the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF), the Lakers Youth Foundation, and other community organizations partnered to distribute food and resources to Inglewood-area families in a drive-through event at Morningside High School.

Volunteers gave out pantry and produce food boxes, physical activity kits, personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 educational information, games and multicultural toys provided by the Mattel Children’s Foundation, L.A. Dodgers shirts, bobbleheads and more.

“While we can finally see a light at the end of this tunnel, we know that many are still being affected by COVID-related challenges, and food insecurity and access to health resources are some of those issues,” says Kiesha Nix, executive director of the Lakers Youth Foundation.

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank donated 1,000 food boxes of each pantry staple and fresh produce items for the event, which was part of the ninth stop for the LADF in its Pull Up Neighbor tour, a partnership to help communities that have had significant challenges from COVID-19.

“Since the pandemic hit, we've been on the ground providing food, essential hygiene items, books, goodies and more to communities,” says Nichol Whiteman, chief executive officer of the LADF.

Pull Up Neighbor was formed at the height of the pandemic last year.

“We started out when face masks and hand sanitizer were scarce to get and began traveling across the country to provide supplies,” says Anthony Holt, the founder of Pull Up Neighbor. “So far, we've been to 60 cities and have serviced just under 200,000 people.”

The event also was co-sponsored by the Inglewood Active Communities collaborative, a group of 20 local organizations led by the AHA. Lawrence Jackson, chairman of Inglewood Active Communities, says the collaborative was focused on improving physical activity among youth before the pandemic.

“As we work to come out of COVID, we’re more focused on community health. The pandemic opened the door for us to use a ‘dual generation’ approach where we can serve both kids and their parents,” Jackson says.

Similar to UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind, providing access to health and wellness opportunities for youth takes a community-centered approach, says Medell Briggs-Malonson, MD, MPH, chief, Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and associate clinical professor of Emergency Medicine at UCLA.

“Oftentimes, we don't think about how so many of the various medical conditions that are experienced in adulthood can be prevented,” Dr. Briggs-Malonson says. “And it actually begins in childhood.

“One of the reasons why we're at this event with Sound Body Sound Mind is because we already know that when we focus on health and wellness access and education from a very young age, the likelihood of developing chronic diseases and other types of issues later on in life decreases,” she says.

Matt Flesock, executive director of UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind, points to an AHA community survey from 2019 on the cardiovascular health, physical activity and social determinants of health among Inglewood residents.

“The ‘major problems’ identified by the AHA survey can be largely grouped into poor community nutrition and a lack of access to opportunities to be safely active. We were able to bring together a network of partners who could bring their own resources to the table that, when combined, directly addressed these issues and more,” Flesock says.

“I feel like this event was a powerful starting place, laying a foundation and presence in Inglewood for us to continue to build upon.”

The UCLA Health Office of Community says its hope is to continue to partner with the AHA in its efforts to support the Inglewood community with a long-term approach.

“We hope to bring back all of our partners later in the fall with a community health fair providing a variety of free clinical services,” says Becky Mancuso-Winding, executive director of the Office of Community at UCLA Health.

This approach aligns with the LADF vision to tackle L.A.’s most pressing issues: education, health care, social justice and homelessness.

“These are issues have existed for hundreds of years and they won’t go away overnight,” says Whiteman. “Our intention is to be able to continue to run our programs and to fund programs throughout the city to ensure that we're at least helping to solve for short-term and long-term solutions.”

Whiteman says the partnership with UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind is one she envisions as a long-term solution. LADF also partnered with Catching Hope – The Will and Cara Smith Foundation to raise the funds needed to provide 1,000 physical activity kits for children and families.

“We're in a situation where we've got to meet people where they're at,” Whiteman says. “We all know that during the pandemic health, wealth and wellness were such trials for so many of us. Can you imagine the experience for kids in under-resourced communities? We want to make sure that we continue to support them.”

The full list of partners includes: