Eduardo Crespi is not content to let sleeping dogs lie. When he saw the rates of obesity and diabetes rising dramatically during the past decade, he decided to tackle the problem at the source.
The executive director of Centro Latino de Salud, Educación y Cultura in Columbia, Mo., Crespi is building a “Comedor Popular,” or People’s Diner near the intersection of Sexton and Garth streets. The building, which once housed a barbecue restaurant, will serve plant-based lunches, offer healthy-cooking classes, sell fresh produce from local farmers and serve as Centro Latino’s headquarters. The concept is modeled on Latin American "comedores," which cook one meal a day and sell it to the poor for a minimal price.
“When you start researching what is causing this epidemic of diabetes and obesity, you realize this has a lot to do with the food we are eating,” said Crespi, BSN ’06. "It's a big deal and I love it because it is a great challenge. If I'm going to do something, I want to do something that will challenge me. I’m at a stage in my career as a public health nurse where I can really fight for the well-being of our community.”
Crespi opened Centro Latino in 2000 to provide a one-stop resource for Latino immigrants in central Missouri who need help acclimating to the community. Its role has expanded to providing health, legal, education and social services to anyone needing help in Columbia. Crespi is “constantly” writing grant proposals, he says, and the center’s services vary somewhat with the grants it is able to secure.
“Eduardo has a long-standing record of commitment, leadership and self-sacrifice in meeting the needs of the Latino community as a health interpreter, health educator, community planner and health policy liaison, as well as demonstrating unwavering commitment to his beloved family,” wrote professor Jane Armer. "His energy, commitment and openness to collaboration are inspiring and led to the tremendous successes observed in serving the needs of ethnically-diverse persons in our community."
Crespi moved to Columbia in 1991 with his wife, Barbara Brockman, a social worker, and became U.S. citizen in 1996. Their daughter, Nicole, is a student at Hickman High School. A career skills test Crespi took showed that nursing would be a good fit for him, so he enrolled in Columbia Health Occupations Center’s LPN program and graduated in 1997. He then enrolled in Columbia College’s nursing program and became an RN in 1999. He finished his BSN at the Sinclair School of Nursing while operating Centro Latino.
“Eduardo Crespi’s innovative creative ability, faith and highly motivated determination have enabled him to excel in his professional endeavors,” wrote associate professor emeritus Verna Rhodes. “His career development demonstrates his focus and determination to become a nurse and to assist in the care of the fast-growing Latino population in mid-Missouri.”