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Life’s a Beach By Shelley Murphy

By Shelley Murphy

Call it what you will—serendipity, divine intervention or the universe aligning—I’m always amazed when I’m thinking about a friend and a text message pops up from that person.

It happened last week and led to a fun afternoon with one of my favorite people.

Cindi Juncal and I met when our kids were in elementary school; and, since they graduated from college, we don’t see each other as often as we once did.

Juncal founded The Noble Path Foundation (TNPF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in 2012 to raise awareness on the importance of sound nutrition and lifestyle choices for our youth.

Recently, Juncal renovated a 1,700-square-foot historic building on El Camino Real that TNPF now calls home. We met there last week to discuss her new digs and upcoming plans.

How does it feel to have a permanent headquarters?

The building is such a blessing.

Everyone who walks in here says the vibe is amazing. It’s like the building wraps its arms around you in a big healthy hug.

Here, we’re not just focusing on food and fitness, but mental health and well-being as well—the whole mind-body-soul continuum. We want to provide a safe and nurturing environment where kids can flourish.

What’s happening at TNPF?

Right now, we’re focusing on trying to get back to real food. We developed the Real Food Challenge, which challenges people to eat real food instead of processed food—real food is food without labels.

Think of nutrition labels on food as warning labels. They warn what’s been added to that food to allow it to sit on a shelf for a long time.

Also, apply “the recipe rule” when grocery shopping: Read the ingredients label, and if there’s a chemical or additive that you wouldn’t see in a recipe or have in your home, put it back.

Who has red food dye number 12 in their cupboard?

Education and awareness are pillars of TNPF; how do you help inform the community?

Parents tell me all the time it’s so hard getting my kids to eat right. We’re here to work with families and provide expert help—and it’s offered free.

Our credentialed nutritionist specializes in sports nutrition and childhood obesity. We’re also partnering with a leading pediatrician to address the childhood obesity epidemic.

Overweight adults are told to join a gym or change their diet; it’s not that simple for kids, and we want to empower them.

Our programs promote awareness. How many parents know processed meat is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen?

Processed meat is in the same group as tobacco smoking and asbestos, which are proven to cause cancer.

My position as a child advocate is there should be a warning label on packages of hot dogs, just as it is on packs of cigarettes: “This product has been shown to cause cancer.”

Then a parent makes a choice. I am not against choice—I am for education and awareness.

What’s your advice to parents aiming to implement healthy changes?

Our emphasis is on progress, not perfection; every step is progress, including:

  • Eliminating processed food as much as possible.
  • Leading by example and getting back to family meals cooked at home.
  • Involving kids in food choices, and when shopping, ask them to choose a new fruit to try.

You’re partnering with Community Outreach Alliance’s Thrive Alive series; what does that entail?

We’re planning a wide array of activities where kids can have fun and get healthy at the same time.

We’ll hold events in our media, fitness, and multipurpose rooms and host game nights and open mic events; we’ll offer music, art, yoga, and we have a hip-hop dance instructor, too.

I’m always looking for people who have special skills and want to share them with the kids—I’d love to offer a meditation program.

It’s going to be so fun in here!

TNPF hosts its Grand Opening on Oct. 2. Anyone looking for good vibes and healthy hugs is welcome. To volunteer, donate or learn more, visit thenoblepathfoundation.org.

For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.

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