Local efforts try to deal with childhood obesity

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The childhood obesity epidemic is like that last task on your "to do" list and you procrastinate until the very last minute to begin. It lingers in your subconscious and manifests itself as stress in your life that you may take out on co-workers or friends.

Like that task, childhood obesity won't go away on its own.

What tools or support are available in Walla Walla? Are they accessible, and are they realistic solutions?

This article touches on a few local points.

Educating children on healthy habits or lifestyle choices can go only so far, as they are not the ones grocery shopping, or planning family needs. Children learn from their major sources of input. moms, dads, siblings, grandparents, classmates, etc.

Walla Walla High School has made a few steps in helping students make healthy choices. There is no soda sold in the vending machines -- it is mostly juice and a variety of flavored waters.

In the cafeteria, there is a salad bar and fruit for healthy options. Although there are still french fries available, they are now baked to reduce the amount of unhealthy fats.

Here are a few policies the school district has adopted:

SBltProvide student access to nutritious food.

*Provide opportunities for physical activity and developmentally appropriate exercise.

*Provide accurate information related to these topics.

The Walla Walla Y is one of 48 YMCA's nationwide selected to receive a grant from the Kraft Foods Foundation to implement Salsa, Sabor y Salud (Food, Fun, and Fitness), a national healthy lifestyles program for Hispanic/Latino families.

Developed by the National Latino Children's Institute and Kraft Foods this program is designed to raise awareness of the importance of good nutrition, increase levels of activity and encourage healthy lifestyle habits for the whole family.

The program is set to begin this summer. What is exciting about this program is it addresses the needs of the family -- at least that is what it is trying to do.

The Y is running this program across the country to evaluate its success. The eight-week bilingual program uses the following structure.

Every session reinforces four key messages:

Eat foods from each of the food groups every day.

Be sensible about portions.

Be physically active every day.

Take small steps for success.

Every session provides experiences and tips that promote:

Healthier food choices compatible with the lifestyle and cuisine of Latino families.

Fun physical activities for the entire family.

Discussion on the concept of "energy balance."

Cultural heritage and lifestyle connections to wellness.

What can we do as families to help combat this disease?

We can be mindful of what we bring home for our families to consume. If we bring home chips and cookies we aren't providing our families any support in their need to live a healthier lifestyle.

Bring home fruits and veggies. Try new and seasonal vegetables available right here in Walla Walla.

The Farmer's Market is a great place to go with the family and purchase fresh fruits, veggies, bread and much more. The best part is you can also help support local businesses.

The Farmer's Market is only one local resource. Another option is community supported agriculture (CSA). If you are like me you have never heard of this program.

Here are a few details.

You can sign up for weekly pick-ups of fruits and vegetables grown right here. How cool is that?

Some farms even offer an apprenticeship so you can work for the food you take home.

This is just a tidbit of information. You can google "community supported agriculture" to find out more. For a list of farms in our area, go to wallawalla.org/pdf/FarmMapLoRes.pdf.

Alyssa Latham received her degree in kinesiology and physical education from the College of Idaho. She has taught high school health and fitness and was the head girl's soccer coach at Wa-Hi. At Whitman College she was assistant women's basketball coach, instructor and strength and conditioning coach. She is youth development director at the YMCA.

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