Encouraging healthy kids

Published 1:16 pm Saturday, October 19, 2013

Childhood obesity is a problem across America, and that includes Suffolk and Western Tidewater.

However, knowing there’s a problem is almost always simpler than solving it. But that hasn’t stopped many individuals and organizations, including The Planning Council, from working hard on the problem.

In an Obici Healthcare Foundation-funded initiative, The Planning Council has been working with local child care centers to improve the nutrition and physical activity children are offered while in their care.

For example, centers are encouraged to switch to 1-percent milk for children above 2 years of age, offer more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, give water instead of juice to drink, encourage participation in physical activity every day and teach children simple lessons about taking care of their bodies.

They might seem like small steps, but every calorie burned or never consumed and every lesson taught will add up to a healthier child who has the knowledge of how to stay that way.

As Marissa Spady of The Planning Council said, “It will pay off down the road.”

And it doesn’t just affect the children. Some of them have been asking their parents to buy healthier foods at home, Growing Up at Obici Director Robin Abbey said. Parents and even the daycare workers themselves have learned valuable lessons about nutrition, such as the importance of choosing water over fruit juice.

The Planning Council also took body mass index measurements from 681 Suffolk and Western Tidewater children whose parents gave their permission as part of the grant. Disturbingly, about 32 percent were overweight or obese, which demonstrates the need for this type of program.

We applaud all those who have been involved with this effort. The future health of our community depends on the lessons children learn today.