“Eat well and be active from an early age”
Written by second-year student Maha Alavi
The Children’s Health Foundation, a non-profit organization that has been raising money and granting funds to children's health care and research for over 80 years, recently received a generous endowment from the GoodLife Kids Foundation. The GoodLife Kids Foundation, a private Canadian Foundation, envisions a Canada where all kids have the opportunity to benefit from an active life. When the Children’s Health Foundation contacted Brescia’s Food and Nutrition professor, Dr. Danielle Battram, and asked her to prepare and conduct a research program to reduce childhood obesity, she was delighted. Given Dr. Battram’s experience in developing culturally-sensitive obesity prevention programs focused on increasing physical activity and healthy eating in at-risk children, the Foundations couldn't have made a better choice.
In the years past, Dr. Battram had partnered with Western University on a program called Nutrition Ignition!, also designed to prevent childhood obesity. While aspects of this program were successful, including the “role modeling” from undergraduate students, the program was limited in its ability to engage the whole school community, including families. This latter aspect is crucial to the success of any obesity prevention program for children, as parents are the major gate-keepers and motivators of their children. Understanding this, Dr. Battram sought out existing programs to see if Nutrition Ignition! could be enhanced to include a whole school community approach, while maintaining the successful aspects of the Nutrition Ignition! program.
Enter Deb Hymers, founder of the NSTEP Eat, Walk, Live program. From the first conversation, Dr Battram knew she had made the best choice to partner with Ms. Hymers and her NSTEP Eat, Walk, Live program. Both Dr. Battram and Ms. Hymers share a tremendous passion for children’s health and believe in sharing experiences to reach as many children and families as possible. And so, the NSTEP Eat, Walk, Live with Nutrition Ignition! collaboration was born.
Dr. Battram’s presentation to the sponsors of this program went very well and, as a result, a new collaborative program was initiated at St. Roberts School in London, Ontario. The launch party (November 2011) was attended by Olympic medalist Silken Laumann and Dr. Battram spoke to introduce and officially launch the program. This was followed by a dance-a-thon put on by the participants of the program for all!
The NSTEP Eat, Walk, Live with Nutrition Ignition! program features many opportunities for children and their families to learn about and experience healthy eating and fun physical activity. Specifically, there are interactive classroom lessons on food groups and label reading, environmental factors affecting food growth and quality, and physical activity. As well, students at Brescia University College and Western University participate in several events, including:
- Snack Days, to promote healthy eating and a sense of adventure with food;
- Fitness Events, including a principal's walk to the Caribbean and lunch-time yoga;
- Family Fun Events, to promote active living and healthy eating for families; and
- a Field Trip to Brescia, to teach senior students the basics of food safety and cooking in the food lab, to name only a few.
To date, the response of the school community has been overwhelming, with only more good things to come.
Dr. Battram acknowledges that eating healthfully and being active is vital at any age, yet one of the benefits of programs such as this, is for children to gain an early understanding of good food and fun physical activity. These good habits, if well-instilled early on for children, will make immeasurable differences in the quality of their physical and mental health later in life and will in all likelihood translate to healthier families.