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Newark Tackling Obesity Among Preschoolers

November 10, 2015 | Community News, Newark

Newark Head Start programs welcomed a new class of preschoolers in September, many of whom are already facing serious health issues. Among this year’s class of students in Newark’s nine preschools, childhood obesity is the second greatest medical need. Only asthma ranks higher.

Liana Rodriguez, Center Director at Early Childhood School-North at Gladys Hillman-Jones is determined to turn that statistic around by working with those who have the biggest influence on children’s eating habits—parents and guardians.

Rodriguez turned to Courtney Price, project manager for New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Newark (NJPHK-N) for help in educating parents about healthy choices in meal preparation.

Price and staff from the YMCA of Newark and Vicinity will present an hour-long interactive nutrition workshop on November 17 at the school. Price hopes that this session will be the first in a series to raise awareness about healthy eating.

The workshop will feature food demonstrations, physical activity and hands-on activities to immerse parents into the learning. “We want to make the content meaningful and accessible to parents so they will take the knowledge home and make healthier decisions for mealtimes and snacks,” said Price. Noting that the workshop kicks off just before Thanksgiving, Price said the hope is to spark some thinking about different things to eat for the holidays and healthier ways to prepare traditional Thanksgiving treats.

The program builds on the principles of the YMCA’s Healthy U program that promotes healthy habits through good nutrition and physical activity and strong parental involvement.

The preschools host monthly meetings with parents and NJPHK-N hopes to be part of the agenda at future meetings to talk about nutrition and maintain an ongoing relationship with the schools around parent engagement.

“The administration places tackling obesity high on list. They recognize the need to reach the parents. In turn, parents want opportunities to be educated on issues surrounding health,” said Price. It’s a win-win for all involved—most critically the children.

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