News Column

Head Start Wins Grant to Fight Childhood Obesity

Dec. 18, 2012

Paul Swiech

The battle against childhood obesity is being taken to 3 to 5 years olds and their families.

Heartland Head Start has received a grant to promote physical activity, healthy food choices and tobacco prevention among children and their families.

While the new, $20,000 Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) Program Grant by the American Cancer Society is not a huge grant, it's noteworthy because it brings together several community partners with a goal of instilling healthy habits in children before kindergarten.

"Childhood obesity is a huge issue and there are so many programs out there for kindergarten and up," Karen Bruning, Heartland Head Start executive director, said Monday. "This is an opportunity to start younger children with healthier habits."

Heartland Head Start prepares 392 low-income children ages 3 to 5 for kindergarten at six sites in Bloomington, Normal and Pontiac. Forty percent of those children are overweight or obese and 5 percent are underweight.

The grant money will be used to buy teachers' manuals, activity boxes, music CDs, fitness balls and equipment, and family nutrition information in English and Spanish that will be used beginning in January.

Head Start partners and their programs include: University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners, healthy foods; Bloomington-Normal YMCA, family fitness activities; OSF Healthcare, nutrition education; Ecology Action Center, rain barrels; area libraries, family literacy; Illinois Department of Public Health, staff training; and Fit Bodies Crossfit.

Janelle Ragusa, Fit Bodies Crossfit owner and coach, will be at a Head Start location once a month throughout 2013 to discuss healthy eating and demonstrate fun exercise.

"I'm looking to inspire a proactive approach to a healthy lifestyle," Ragusa said.


Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.)

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