Nutrition and Physical Activity

Program Contacts

Program Information and Community Events:

Mary Urtecho-Garcia, Program Coordinator

(626) 744-6163

Nutrition Classes:

Elizabeth Estevez, Community Health Educator and Event Liaison

(626) 744-6136

Pasadena Healthy Retail Program:

Esmeralda Garcia, Healthy Retail Program Liaison and Community Health Educator

(626) 744-6134

Nutrition and Physical Activity Program

Program Goal

The Nutrition and Physical Activity Program aims to reduce the prevalence of obesity and other chronic diseases by providing nutrition education and obesity prevention services in Pasadena.

Our goal is to make the healthy choice an easy choice for all who live, work, shop, and play in Pasadena.

Program Objectives 

  • Increase consumption and access to healthy foods and beverages;
  • Decrease consumption of added sugar from food and beverages;
  • Increase physical activity levels;
  • Improve food resource management skills such as meal planning and shopping on a budget; and
  • Create community environments that support healthy eating and active living

Who We Are

Who We Are image

Meet the Nutrition and Physical Activity Program team!

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Champions for Change

Champions for Change logo

Become a role model and leader for your community.

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Be Better Pasadena

Be Better Pasadena image

Join the statewide nutrition campaign with a simple message: “You don’t have to be perfect, just be better!”

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Healthy Retail

Healthy Retail

Transform your neighborhood by helping to bring healthier food to small markets near you.

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Food and Beverage

Little By Little image

Program giving parents guidance on the importance of reading to a child.

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Nutrition Classes image

Sign up for free nutrition classes to gain new tools to live a healthier life.

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Champions for Change

Champions for Change

Are you a healthy role model for your family and friends? Do you want to be? Are there changes you would like to make in your community, like improve the lunch menu at your child’s school or get your corner store to carry more fruits and vegetables?The Champions for Change Program has the resources, training and support you need to be successful!

Check out what some of our Champions for Change are up to!

Who is A Champion for Change
Champions for Change Profiles
Success Stories
Become a Champion for Change

Be Better Pasadena

Be Better Pasadena

Be Better Pasadena LogoThe Be Better Campaign, adapted from the California Department of Public Health, is part of an ongoing effort to improve the health of families and communities in California, especially those that are at greater risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Research has indicated that having a normal weight reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 70 percent[i]. Be Better Pasadena was created to inspire and motivate individuals and families to adopt small changes for a healthier tomorrow through a simple message:“You don’t have to be perfect, just be better.”

The Be Better Campaign television and radio ads spotlight real Champions for Change across California, who despite the stresses of everyday life, have committed to be better for themselves and their families by getting more physical activity, drinking water instead of sugary drinks, and eating more fruits and vegetables.

Watch these videos to learn more about the Be Better campaign!

Get Started Today! Learn ways to eat better, play better, and refresh better every day by taking advantage of the free resources provided by the Nutrition and Physical Activity Program.

Share how you are eating, playing, and drinking better every day by using the hashtag #BeBetterPasadena.

[1] Reis, J.P., Loria, C.M., Sorlie, P.D., Park, Y., Hollenbeck, A., & Schatzkin, A. (2011). Lifestyle factors and risk for new-onset diabetes in a large population-based prospective cohort study. Annals of Internal Medicine, 155(5), 292-299.


Healthy Retail

Healthy Retail Program

Access to healthy food is a challenge for those that live, work, play and learn in Northwest Pasadena. Northwest Pasadena is characterized as a “food desert,” which is a name is given to neighborhoods with a scarcity of grocery stores and an abundance of fast food outlets and convenience stores. People that live in food deserts are at a higher risk of becoming overweight and developing chronic disease due to limited access to healthy options and poorer food choices. Improvements in the neighborhood food environment can encourage people to make better choices about what they eat and drink.The Healthy Retail Program promotes healthier, safer, and more vibrant neighborhoods in Northwest Pasadena by helping small store owners respond to a need in the community for greater access to fresh and healthy food. The Healthy Retail Program provides assistance to qualifying small stores in Northwest Pasadena. Assistance may include staff training, interior and exterior improvements, equipment, marketing materials, and community nutrition education.

Community Surveys
Healthy Retail Program Projects
Apply for a Mini-Grant
Get Involved

Food and Beverage Standards

Healthy Food and Beverage Standards

On October 3rd, 2011, the City of Pasadena adopted one of the strongest Healthy Food Vending and Procurement policies in Southern California. The City of Pasadena Healthy Food and Beverage Vending and Procurement Policy includes the following provisions:

  • Require 100% of snacks sold in vending machines on City property to meet specified nutrition standards.
  • Require 100% of beverages sold in vending machines on City property to meet specified nutrition standards.
  • Require 100% of beverages and snacks served at all meetings/programs/events led, or coordinated, by City staff or programs, using City funds, shall meet specified nutrition standards.

The goal of the standards is to improve the health of all City of Pasadena employees and residents that utilize City services and/or participate in City programs and events. The standards were developed based on the feedback, review, and agreement of local collaborative groups, community residents and City staff members.

Procurement Manual for Programs Meetings Events 2012

Healthy Meetings Manual 2012

Pasadena Healthy Food and Beverage Vending and Procurement Policy

Who We Are

Who we are

Mary Urtecho-Garcia | Program Coordinator

Mary is a native Angelino who grew up in a large family of eight siblings, just outside of Pasadena. She attended all grades in parochial school including Mount Saint Mary’s College where she received her degree in Childhood Development and Human Services. Mary has dedicated her professional career to teaching, serving and empowering people, especially the disenfranchised. She has worked in several community-based positions, fulfilling her stewardship to others. Mary is a Bilingual Certified Food, Nutrition and Health Educator with over fourteen years as the Nutrition and Physical Activity Program Coordinator, bringing years of studies, trainings and experiences in Nutrition to the Pasadena community.


Esmeralda Garcia |  Pasadena Healthy Retail Program, Nutrition Education

Esmeralda is a native Angelino and has a Bachelors of Science in Urban and Regional Planning from Cal Poly Pomona. Urban and Regional Planning stood out to her because it provided insight as to why the community she grew up in looked so different from other communities that were only a five to ten-minute drive away. She learned that policy and design can influence the urban environment and ultimately impact communities and the lives of those who live there. Once she discovered that urban planning and public health professionals were working hand-in-hand more than ever, she decided to work in the public health realm by sharing and applying the knowledge that she had acquired. She is currently the Pasadena Healthy Retail Coordinator where she assists small food business owners to increase and promote healthier foods and beverages to Northwest Pasadena residents. She believes that everyone deserves to have access to healthy food, regardless of where they live and their socio-economic status.


Elizabeth Estevez | Lead Health Educator

Elizabeth Estevez is first generation Mexican-American. Her parents are natives from Puebla, Mexico. She graduated from Wayne Community College. She has fifteen years of public health experience and has worked with the Pasadena Public Health Department for eight years. As a community liaison, Elizabeth believes that collaboration and communication between a health department and the public are vital in creating a health and fitness conscious community. She hopes that her work with the Nutrition and Physical Activity Program will continue to inspire others to achieve and live a healthier lifestyle.


Mark Estrada | Be Better Campaign

Mark is a native to Los Angeles, and grew up in Alhambra. He is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He studied government to help bring better representation to his hometown and the surrounding neighborhoods. At school, Mark learned that all levels of government are important, especially local government when bringing direct influence and policy. Mark currently works on the Be Better Campaign that highlights the importance of eating healthier, exercising often, and drinking lots of water.




The Nutrition and Physical Activity Program provides FREE nutrition classes year-round at community centers, parks, and local organizations.  Our trained, bilingual health educators create tailored lesson plans in English and Spanish. Our classes empower individuals to adopt healthier lifestyle habits including increased consumption of healthy foods and decreased consumption of unhealthy foods such as those with added sugars. Classes also promote the importance of regular physical activity. We believe that change happens one step at a time because “you don’t have to be perfect, just be better.”Check out the program calendar for a schedule of upcoming classes, workshops and community events!


Organizations interested in having one of our trained nutrition educators teach a class or workshop at their location may contact Elizabeth Estevez at

Please note that there are eligibility requirements to be a host organization: 1) Must be located in Pasadena, 2) Serves low-income populations, 3) Guarantee a minimum of 10 participants per class/workshop.

Nutrition Classes
Physical Activity Promotion