When Personal Goals Take Shape As The Health Of A Community
Lenore Estrada grew up in Stockton and has navigated obstacles to start Three Babes Bakeshop in San Francisco after graduating from Yale and a stint in tech. She now operates the business while helping uplift other small businesses through the non-profit, SF New Deal. Her idea of healthy involves food and a more equitable community.
Lenore is one of seven kids who grew up in the midst of California farms in Stockton. She’s a new mom, due to give birth to her at any moment when we spoke late in September. She juggles motherhood while running Three Babes Bakeshop and San Francisco’s new non-profit SF New Deal, where she helps keep small businesses alive and feed our community. Lenore’s definition of healthy includes forming good habits, eating healthy, and uprooting systems of income inequality. Her lifes’ work has become one that fights for less disparity by advocating for access to housing and education, and equitable access to healthcare.
Lenore Estrada; Photo courtesy of Bloomberg News/Jessica Chou
Lenore’s Three Babes Bakeshop came from humble beginnings--starting as a pop-up shop in a shipping container before setting anchor in San Francisco. Pies are not necessarily complex culinary feats; they are savored for the perfection of a delicate crust and balanced filling. No gimmicks. The content of Lenore’s character seems much the same. She’s direct, focused, and works with great intention. Three Babes Bakeshop uses only organic ingredients. Even the butter is organic, despite it being more difficult to track down amidst the pandemic and onslaught of devastating fires this year. Not only does Lenore want to invest in organic farms, especially those heavily impacted by the fires, she makes the effort to attain ingredients that are healthier for consumers because she’s passionate about healthy foods.
The use of organic ingredients is more expensive and makes it more challenging to acquire all the ingredients for each batch of baked pies, but Three Babes Bakeshop puts in the work. Investing in these foods is one step smaller businesses can take towards disrupting the cyclical pattern of stronger pesticide and chemical use in agriculture and pest or weed resiliency. Chemical usage seems to continue in an upward trend. American farmers have spent $17.6 billion on chemicals in 2017, according to the USDA’s census, spending more on seed and chemicals while not increasing their returns over the years and are at the mercy of the pesticide and herbicide industries. It hasn’t always been this way--these numbers have more than doubled in the last two decades.
Sometimes it’s personal. Lenore was trying different career paths on the East Coast as a Yale grad to see what would stick when her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She promptly moved back to California to work and save money. Only months later, in 2007, Lenore was diagnosed with cancer, too. There is no good time to be diagnosed with cancer; and to need chemotherapy in your thirties is unforeseen and disheartening, to say the least. Months of chemo and some radiation later, Lenore fortunately beat cancer. Incidents of illnesses like these are on the rise especially in agricultural areas. In the past decade, studies have revealed significant correlation between Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the use of pesticides and fertilizers that contain chemicals harmful to people working in agriculture or live in proximity to it.
Lenore overcame more than most of us would wish to experience in one lifetime, and her focus has tremendously been placed into efforts of giving back. “I always wanted to go to college. A lot of my family members were dealing with significant challenges. You know, drug problems...in and out of prison...a lot of poverty and violence. So I was very focused from when I was a small child on going to college and helping the community,” she recounts how she decided to first start the bakeshop. And it never stopped at that.
Today, she leads the non-profit, SF New Deal, to make sure small businesses stay afloat during this pandemic and mouths are fed. “People want to glorify [stories of] strength and resilience...at the beginning, it would kind of irritate me when people would talk about this strength and resilience because it’s not like I’m choosing for these terrible things to happen to me,” she recounts having to talk about losing her partner and both parents too early in life, “you can either stop and settle for less, or you can keep pushing.” As the Bay Area faces a slew of challenges with record number job losses, SF New Deal sets off to create a more resilient community.
Since the onslaught of the pandemic, the number of people who rely on food banks has increased while the number of people volunteering time to help feed those in need has waned. Even with resources to guide business owners to acquiring assistance for keeping their storefronts alive, over five thousand businesses have shut down in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metro area. And in August, SFGate reported that there were more stores closed than operational storefronts. Lenore has always been looking for work that gives her a strong sense of purpose and that she enjoys doing, especially one that allows her to connect with people and get involved in business with a “socially positive influence”. Although owning a small shop allowed her some of this, Lenore sought greater expertise from world-class marketing experts and seasoned businesspeople. SF New Deal expanded the scope of Lenore’s community oriented work. The non-profit now partners with over one hundred restaurants, to fund the production of meals and preserve jobs for local establishments, so that the community may continue to eat and provide a flourishing financial ecosystem despite the presence of such economic turmoil.
SF New Deal does not only provide jobs and sustain the livelihood of real people, the problem it tackles is food insecurity, an issue that describes insufficient food access and intake especially affecting households in low-income areas. Inadequate resources, shocks to household income, and lack of access to transportation are just some contributors to food insecurity and all are exacerbated by the economic collapse of 2020. With higher incidences of food insecurity, correlating numbers in the increase of chronic disease in the same populations might be expected. But these conditions do not have to be permanent.
With the pandemic, Lenore immediately needed to lay off almost all her staff, losing twenty employees. She lost about eighty percent of total revenue and fortunately was given the opportunity to do something big to uplift businesses like her own and help keep more people employed throughout the shelter-in-place. Within six months since its inception, SF New Deal has experienced huge uptick to produce hundreds of thousands of free meals--crossing just over 850,000 meals produced at the end of September and almost crossing the nine million dollar mark going back to small businesses. They started by delivering to churches, shelters, and cooperating with a program with UCSF called Citywide Case Management that works with people who are severely mentally ill. The non-profit then grew, feeding more seniors and homeless in temporary housing. With the continued success of the program, Lenore doesn’t take a salary from the hours she works growing SF New Deal and is happy to see SF New Deal continue to prosper.
“One thing that’s important is to actually talk to people about what’s needed and to have some understanding of what’s necessary,” as a small business owner herself, she can more easily empathize with what other owners and employers are experiencing. She listens to her staff and her customers where a diverse pool of voices, needs, and desires puts Lenore in the crosshairs of a better representation of needs of people not like herself. She acknowledges that problem solving in San Francisco sometimes takes off without having conversations with those who the solutions aim to help, thus failing to address issues effectively.
“There are ample and obvious ways to get involved if you are actually interested in doing something.”
“A healthy community, I think...less income inequality is really important. I think that many of the challenges that people have are compounding and they’re all rooted in poverty and systemic imbalances,” Lenore explains what she imagines a healthy community would look like, “ideally in a healthy community, there are fewer disparities between the wealthiest and the least wealthy, people have access to housing, people actually have access to a better education...to me, a healthy community is one in which people have more equitable access to resources.” Striving for better health is a lifelong process at an individual level; still, we share a collective journey in developing healthy practices at an industrial, economic, and communal level.
The following exercises featured in the article are common recommendations from our training/physical therapy team, but they are not to be used as prescriptive movements. Each reader should be advised to seek care from a primary physician or licensed therapist if they are experiencing notable pain/discomfort, and to be advised to practice safely if they choose to try the exercises without supervision.
Practicing Movement While Pregnant
Plenty of old beliefs, including avoiding exercising while pregnant, have been debunked. Although getting movement during pregnancy is important, there are some areas on which more emphasis should be placed. For instance, although developing and maintaining core stability is essential throughout the three trimesters, it is advised to avoid supine (laying on your back) type of core exercises to ensure proper blood supply to the fetus and good health for the mom-to-be.
Here are some samples of how to improve strength, core stability, and balance throughout the pregnancy and maybe even in your current routine.
First Trimester: Core and Stamina
Standing Marches It is helpful to be next to a sturdy supporting surface or wall for this. Focus on slow movements for core engagement. Keep points of the hip parallel to the ground. If one side dips/rises above the other, it may indicate that you are not engaging the abdominals.
Sit to Stand/ Squats In an upright position at the edge of the seat, lean slightly forward by hinging at the hip (back stays flat). Move into a strong standing position by squeezing the glutes (your butt). Think about spreading the floor between your feet or imagine pulling against a band at the knees.
Quadruped Alternating Arm/Leg Raises Start by practicing a proper quadruped position. Knees are under the hips, hands are under the shoulders. Think about drawing the navel to spine. It can sometimes help to think about tucking the hips under by squeezing the butt. Four main indicators for a spine in alignment may be to look at the back of the head, between the shoulders, low back and hips to be in a long line. Try lifting one arm while keeping the torso stable. When lifting, think of bringing the thumb towards the ceiling, maintaining distance between the shoulder and the ear. If you can, bring the arm so that it is at the same level as the ear. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds, maintaining tight core, then slowly return to quadruped position.
You can also try lifting one leg at a time, holding for 3 to 5 seconds as well. The goal is to not relax the low back as you lift off. Think long strong lines. Our model here also shows the "fire hydrant" move to isolate the glute (butt) muscles more. Notice that she brings the leg to where the thigh is in line with the torso, not needing to hyperextend the spine. (The last image shows our model with one arm and the opposite leg lifted. This is the most challenging of the series shown.)
Supported Mountain Climbers
You can use a sturdy counter, table, bench, or something similar for this move. Hold onto the edge of the stable surface and establish a plank. (Make a 90 degree angle between your body and extended arms.) You might find that you are comfortable on your toes and stepping closer/further from the corner of the surface. Position your body so that your hips and shoulders are in one line. If you look from the side and find that your body forms an "L" shape or your hips sag down towards the ground, you need to adjust and work on engaging the abdominals to form a nice strong line with the spine.
Once stable, bring one knee at a time up towards the chest with the toes flexed (pulled up towards the head) to engage the legs throughout this exercise. Alternate raising right/left legs. Choosing to do this with a faster pace will make it more of a cardio exercise, while performing it slowly will present a greater challenge for stability. Watch out for wobbly hips!
Second Trimester: Postural Corrections, Balance, and Stability
Multifidus Isometrics The multifidus contributes to vertebral (spine) stability. We can work these with more subtle engagement. In this exercise, you want to set up where you can be seated with your arms bent at a 90 degree angle and your legs hip width apart also at 90 degree angles (looking at the hips and then at the knees). Plant both feet firmly on the ground and bring your hands up underneath a firm surface with two fingers firmly against the bottom (as pictured). To activate the muscles, try to press upward into the surface (motion as if trying to lift it) while maintaining upright posture. Your body should not move but the gentle push should help engage these smaller muscles. Try to hold a steady position for 10 seconds, relax then repeat again. Try this 2-5 times daily.
Resistance Band Mid Rows
Begin with the feet hip width apart, toes pointed forward, one foot forward and one back. If this is an uncomfortable stance, try with the feet parallel and a slight bend in the knees. With the core tight, shoulders over the hips, pull the band--bring the elbows back and squeeze shoulder blades together. When returning to the initial position, resist the band (take about 3-4 seconds).
Single Leg/Tandem Supported Stance
Balance takes practice. Use a stable supporting surface as needed.
We start with a tandem stance (heel to toes) in an upright posture. 30 seconds of steady balance with the hips tucked under the shoulder and core engaged, then switch to lead with the opposite foot. If this is easy, try using a foam pad or less stable surface. You can continue creating challenges by balancing on one leg, checking that the points of the hips (where you might place your hands on the hips) are level and parallel to the floor, and that the spine is in neutral (draw navel to spine). To challenge different aspects of balance, you can close your eyes or try slowly turning your head ("no" motion) side to side, just do so safely!
Supported Tandem Walk/March
You may also want to try similar balance exercises to the one above by setting up a 10 yard straight line to try to march along. When doing so, try to keep your gaze relaxed and forward, with your shoulders over your hips. Remember to use support or assistance as needed.
Partial/Balls-Wall Sits For this exercise, you'll place a ball behind the back and against the wall. Begin with the shoulders over the hips (no leaning) and the knees extended. As you bend the knees, notice if they fall inward. Try to move the body like an elevator, straight up and down, as the knees bend. The back should remain flat/neutral throughout this move. "Spread the floor" between the feet!
Third Trimester: Hip Mobility, Pelvic Floor Focus, and Core Integrity
Begin in your quadruped position. Bring the hips back towards the heels, maintaining position of hands and knees. Keep the torso as parallel to the surface as you can. This will require engagement of the core and will feel different from simply shifting the body to and fro.
Seated Ball Squeezes
Begin with hips at a 90 degree angle, posture upright. Bring the ankles under the knees so that the knees are also at right angles. Place a small ball or something similar (a rolled beach towel or folded pillow might work) between the knees. Gently squeeze the ball and hold the squeeze from about 8-10 seconds and slowly release to the initial position. Then repeat.
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Founder, Project Green Beard
UCSC Banana Slug
Special thanks to
Lenore Estrada, PT Specialties, and Gianna Pellettieri