Childhood obesity has been on the rise across the United States, but the tide is turning.
One of the key factors has been a community-based approach to tackling the problem. It's happening in our community with efforts directed by CHIP, our Community Health Improvement Plan.
Here's just a sample of how community partners are teaming up in Benton and Franklin counties to help grow healthy children and teens:
-- Community gardens: The Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance and WSU Master Gardeners program are working to increase the number of school, agency and community gardens. When children are able to plant, grow, harvest and prepare fresh produce to eat, they learn to make lifelong healthy choices.
-- Child nutrition: The Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, program at Benton-Franklin Health District provides low-income families with nutrition counseling, food vouchers for grocery stores and local farmers markets, and evidence-based breastfeeding support. In addition, the 21st Century After-School Program has a nutrition and physical activity component supported by community agencies and resources. Signs promoting healthy food choices are posted in schools. Efforts are under way to link educational curriculums with tools that teach kids the importance of healthy eating and physical exercise as well.
-- Physical activity: WSU Tri-Cities, local K-12 schools, Safe Kids Benton-Franklin Coalition and the health district are working to reduce pedestrian injury and promote physical activity through the Safe Routes to Schools initiatives, giving families safe ways to walk and bike to school. The alliance is working to make streets and neighborhoods safer for everyone to walk and bike through city planning and policy.
-- Health education: Kadlec Academy is a four-week program provided by Kadlec Regional Medical Center to local elementary schools. This program promotes human health, nutrition and fitness. Its goal is to visit all local elementary schools and preschools, while also reaching out to engage families with the same health messages.
Tips for packing lunches
Packed lunches can be loaded with nutrition. Unfortunately, many of the convenient and kid-favorite items are high-sugar, high-fat, and high-sodium foods.
The following are some tips:
-- Look for juice products that are 100 percent juice.
-- Read pre-packaged lunches carefully and avoid if they contain 1800 milligrams or more of sodium (over half a child's daily need) or more than 50 percent fat.
Pack a variety of colors and textures
-- Veggies: Carrots and celery sticks, broccoli and cauliflower florets, cucumber slices, jicama sticks, cherry tomatoes, asparagus spears, lettuce on sandwich.
-- Fruit: Bananas, grapes, apples, cut up oranges, melons, peaches, pineapples and kiwi, box of raisins, small cup of applesauce or fruit cup.
-- Grains: Low-fat muffins, bagels, pita bread, low-fat crackers, whole grain breads, English muffins, tortillas, cornbread, raisin bread, biscuits, rice cakes.
-- Meats/meat alternates: Turkey, chicken, egg salad, roast beef, meat loaf, tuna, salmon (refrigeration required), peanut and other nut or seed butters, nuts, seeds and beans.
-- Dairy: Cheese, string cheese, yogurt, milk. Look for low-fat or skim labels.
-- The Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance's monthly food column discusses how to reduce the risk or severity of health problems by eating better. ore information at www.bfcha.org.