From Dying to Thriving through ‘Fooducation’

Appeared in Brownsville Herarld and Valley Morning Star on March 3rd, 2013

By Lisa Mitchell-Bennett

Lebby Salinas was lying in a hospital bed contemplating her death. “I knew I had to die sometime, but I wasn’t ready with my daughter still so young. At that moment I felt a peace come over me—it was God’s way of telling me my daughter would be okay. But I begged to at least know what had caused my illness.  I also knew then and there if I lived, I would spend the rest of my life giving back to the world.”

Lebby had already spent several years and tens of thousands of dollars trying to figure out what was wrong with her—why she was wasting away and not able to eat and why her immune system was destroyed and she was so very sick. “I recovered enough to leave the hospital and set out on a quest to heal myself, since the health care system hadn’t been able to do it for me. I really had no other choice—I didn’t have the resources or energy to deal with another doctor or hospital.”

In her quest to heal herself,  she stumbled across a lot information.  “I read and researched about food and nutrition since food seemed to be my nemesis. It was eye-opening! The doctors had told me I didn’t have celiac disease, but what I discovered on my own was that I do have a gluten sensitivity and food allergies.”

As Lebby explored the connection between food and her health, she realized that eating real food, grown in the earth, not over processed or genetically modified, was making her better. “I had to rethink food. As I healed, people started asking me about what I was eating and I realized there was a great need for “fooducation” here in the Valley. I went from dying to thriving by just changing what I eat, and what I don’t eat. It was so powerful that I had doctors calling me to find out what was working so well.  People who knew me before, during and after my illness would come to me for nutritional advice, so I decided I better become officially trained and certified as a health coach.

“I’m also involved with the Historic Cine Rey (movie theater) Foundation, so last January I decided to show some movies about food and nutrition at the theater. The Valley had just made news for being fattest in the country. So I decided we needed to make the news again, but this time because we are doing something about obesity!”  The movie series aired “The Weight of the Nation” and other documentary style films addressing the obesity crisis and enlightening the public about what they are really eating.

“Through the movie series, which has now expanded to Brownsville, I’ve connected with so many groups working on the issue of health and nutrition. I have been able to connect with individuals who are desperate to be part of a new movement that focuses on sustainable living, like growing our food locally, supporting community gardens, farmers markets, and educating our children so they know how to eat real food. Exercise is important, but if the real issue is to improve our health, the emphasis needs to be on the food we eat.”

Salinas worries that people are full of so many toxins, msg, and carcinogenic chemicals, and they don’t even realize it. “Then they get sick and take all this medicine, making the problem worse.”

Salinas, who has a marketing background, has grown her Fooducation movement on a shoestring budget. “I am lucky that social media and several organizations have helped me get the word out. I am now making a series of teaching videos, cooking classes and always involved in community events and programs that promote wellness.”Salinas went from dying to thriving and her enthusiasm to share healthy food and information is contagious!

In McAllen the movies are now aired the second Saturday of the month at the new Library. In Brownsville, Fooducation movies and discussion take place the third Saturday of the month at the Brownsville Historic Museum, at 1:00 pm after the Farmers Market closes. For more information go to the Fooducation website at

Through the entertainment of film Salinas believes she can engage and educate. She is reaching her goal to have a stronger impact on her community, because she knows that Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta! (Your Health Matters!)