Program helps youth stay fit and eat right

June 24, 2011
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In an effort to lower skyrocketing obesity rates in Austin, three groups are working together to teach young people how to keep fit and eat healthy.

End-of-the-year celebrations were recently held for Move N’ Crunch, a partnership between the Westside Health Authority, Tasteful Manners and Chicago Run.

“We are in three elementary schools and two Head Start centers,” said Tigee Hill, program coordinator for Move N’ Crunch. “We have a nutrition component, so we have interactive cooking classes with the students to show them how to eat healthy and have fun with it.”

In all, five partnering sites participated this year: Mary Crane Center, Westside Holistic Family Services, Spencer Elementary Technology Academy, Henry H. Nash Elementary School and May Community Academy.

Chicago Run takes care of the physical activity component – the “move” in Move N’ Crunch – with running programs during the school day in the elementary schools. Tasteful Manners – responsible for the “crunch” in Move N’ Crunch – teaches kids how and what to eat.

Earlier this month, all the hard work culminated in a family fun day for the program’s youngest participants, when teachers, students and parents gathered at Bethel New Life to learn and teach each other ways of staying fit and eating healthy.

“We try to involve the teacher, the parents and the whole community in eating healthy, so we have good role models for the kids,” said Hill.

Tasteful Manners goes to the three elementary schools once a week for a couple of hours, teaching kids what to eat and what’s healthy. Chicago Run is in the schools year round, keeping the kids active and moving.

Since the children at family fun day were between the ages of 3 and 5, Chicago Run wasn’t in attendance because it’s hard to keep children that age focused on the physical activity part, said Cody McSellers-McCray, director of health promotions at Westside Health Authority. (Older children – 6 to 13 – participate at the school sites.)

The children played an active version of Simon Says, hit balloons, and competed in relay races and a sack race.

“This is very important because I’m trying to look for a healthy way she can eat, and I try to keep her very active,” said Pamela Reneau, whose child participated in the program.

Her daughter looked like the Energizer Bunny, hopping around with the other students without even gasping for breath.

“This program gives me a knowledge of how to interact with her and what to feed her,” said Reneau.

BlueCross Blue Shield funded the program this year, McSellers-McCray said.

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