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Workshops Engage Newark Parents Around Children’s Health

February 21, 2016 | Community News, Newark

ObesitySlideA series of workshops designed to engage parents of Newark preschoolers on nutrition and physical activity has proved eye opening for attendees according to workshop facilitator Courtney Price, project manager for New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Newark (NJPHK-N). The workshops came out of Price’s meetings with school principals. They all asked for help with the same issue: “How do we encourage our kids to eat more healthy foods?”

The idea was to reach the parents and educate them about nutrition related topics, such as reading labels, portion control, and how to make dollars stretch in the grocery store. Attendees have been struck by the cause and effect between poor nutrition and oral health—a topic that is not always associated with healthy eating. And the nationwide statistics on the growth of obesity over 20 years also have been enlightening for many parents. Through a series of PowerPoint slides, parents watch the U.S. map change from fully blue representing an obesity rate of 15 percent or less in 1990 to two-thirds red representing an obesity rate of 25 to 30-plus percent in 2010.

Participants also share their perceptions of what health means in the city and what health means to them. Their stories underscore how tough it can be to change eating habits especially when good grocery choices are a long bus ride away. “Behavior is cultural and generational,” said Price. “What a parent ate as a child could influence the choices they make for their children today. We want to equip parents with the proper knowledge so they can make better choices for their children.” Adding to that are constraints of time, affordability, and accessibility to fresh food.

Price hopes to present additional parent workshops in all 11 Newark schools as an enhancement to the CATCH curriculum. So far, she’s facilitated workshops at Gladys Hillman-Jones, Luis Munoz Marin, and Chancellor Avenue Elementary. “Principals are supportive,” said Price. “They see kids come to school with sweets and other unhealthy food. They recognize the challenge and want to heighten parents’ awareness about healthy and unhealthy behaviors.”

CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) is the most proven resource to prevent childhood obesity and launch kids and communities toward healthier lifestyles. It is a coordinated program designed to promote physical activity and nutrition education in early childhood through middle school-aged children.

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