Early Childhood

Fighting Childhood Obesity from the Start

By Maureen Kelleher — September 13, 2010 1 min read
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It’s ironic that just when early childhood is faced with the challenge of weaving more and stronger academics into what it already does, K-12 educators are confronting the need to address issues beyond academics, such as health, fitness, and nutrition. The Ed.gov blog features a letter from Arne Duncan calling for K-12 educators to help make sure children have health insurance, with an aside on the importance of addressing childhood obesity.

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative has been making waves in K-12 schools across the country. Her home town of Chicago is working hard to make school food healthier and encourage physical fitness through Go for the Gold, sponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign. Already, Chicago has adopted healthier menus citywide in its new food service contract. (Full disclosure: I’m working with Go for the Gold to encourage Chicago high schools to meet its standards for healthy food, physical fitness, and nutrition education.) An Aug. 17 luncheon previewed some of the new menu selections, including a combo of chicken jambalaya, cornbread, and tomato-cucumber salad created by a high school culinary arts student. Yummy!

Let’s Move also encourages moms to eat healthy while pregnant and breastfeeding, supporting nutrition for their kids from the start. At its annual conference Nov. 5 in California, NAEYC will join the movement for healthier eating and physical fitness by featuring an expert panel on childhood obesity. Panelists will include Dianne Ward, professor of nutrition and co-director of the doctoral program in the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who led the team that developed a nutrition and physical activity self-assessment for child care centers.

There’s a really ritzy new infant-to-five-years day care center in Chicago, Little Green Tree House, that uses its healthy, organic food as a selling point. I went on the tour a couple of weeks ago and they certainly are walking their talk as an eco-friendly, healthy eating, physically fit place to put a young child. They even have a wonderful indoor play area for year-round physical activity--a must here in the Windy City. But as you can imagine, it’s not cheap to enroll your child: Full-time care will set parents back over $1,600 a month!

How do we get good quality food and fitness to our youngest kids without breaking the bank?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.