RACINE — It’s more than just physical health. It’s mental and emotional health, too.
That was the basis of the inaugural “Health is Wealth” Wellness Fair on Saturday at the Dr. John Bryant Community Center, 601 Caron Butler Drive.
The fair was hosted by the Urban League of Racine and Kenosha, an organization dedicated to empowering underserved communities by offering education, job opportunities and other personal development programs.
“Health is not just physical, which is usually what people think of, right?” said Kendra Koeppen-Mulwana, a board chair of the ULRK. “It’s like, ‘Oh, I need to go to the gym and stay healthy,’ but mental health, physical health, financial health, spiritual health overall pillars to a well-rounded, healthy individual.”
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The event was completely free and open to the public. Attendees visited several booths related to health care — such as dentists and clinics and educators on heart health — but they also got a chance to shop small businesses, eat locally made, fresh food and listen to The Fonk Brothers band.
Free COVID-19 vaccines were also being given out at the event.
Along with the booths, there were also different fitness contests and demonstrations to participate in and watch throughout the fair. For example, there was a hula hoop contest, a double dutch jump roping contest and a three-point shooting basketball contest.
The fair was located right next to Dream Court, a public basketball court, and was often filled with kids and adults playing ball.
Racine County Board Supervisor Nick Demske, who looks after District 1, where the wellness fair took place, said he was proud to see local organizations coming together to provide these resources.
“Wellness — physical, mental, emotional, holistic — is something of a crisis in the country for sure, even prior to the pandemic,” Demske said. “Now that we are still slugging through the pandemic, it’s been more important than ever to build these resources and get them into (people’s) hands.”
Of wellness resources, Demske said: “If we’re ever going to get back to what we had before, or even to something better, that’s going to be one of the most critical pieces.”
However, barriers do exist in communities of color and other underserved groups, keeping them from bettering aspects of their wellness.
“I think traditionally, and just like within cultures of certain marginalized groups of people, there’s this stigma that you can’t have mental health problems or that if you do get treated for them that makes you weak or unapproachable,” Koeppen-Mulwana said.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2019, there were an estimated 51.5 million adults in the United States with any mental illness.
And according to the American Psychiatric Association, diverse populations tend to have similar, or in some cases, less cases of mental illness in comparison to whites.
But the consequences of mental illness in communities of color may last longer due to inaccessibility of high quality mental health care services, cultural stigma surrounding mental health care, discrimination and overall lack of awareness about mental health.
“I think this (fair) is a way for people to see that getting any sort of help, advice can be good for you,” Koeppen-Mulwana said. “And it can be an approachable way to ask questions, figure out like what you need to do to work on yourself.”
Healthy meal options
All food at the event had healthy choices and were free to the public.
For example, Prepping Beauties — a Racine-based meal prepping service — was not only offering its chipotle veggie tacos to the fair, but owner Miketra Larry also demonstrated how to make one of her healthy recipes.
Larry turned a “high glycemic dish” into a “low glycemic dish” by making a traditional loaded potato bowl and replacing the potato with cauliflower. A food’s glycemic index, specifically in food containing carbohydrates, measures how much that food increases one’s blood sugar.
“So I take the most unhealthy dishes and I make them in the most healthiest ways, like the loaded potato. We all love that, but high glycemic carbs are not so good for our bodies,” Larry said.
Larry noted how many of her meals — including the one she demonstrated — could be made affordably. “When you’re on a budget, you can still make meals healthy.”