Chicago beats first lady to the punch

By Lisa Owad
Feb. 11, 2010
Medill News Service

A new program to fight childhood obesity will soon be under way in Chicago. “I Am Moving, I Am Learning,” sponsored by Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services, is expected to reach children in March.

The program, which has been in the works for more than a year, follows Tuesday’s announcement of Michelle Obama’s anti-childhood obesity campaign, “Let’s Move.”

“The idea is to get children moving throughout the day,” said Paulette Mercurius, an assistant director of Head Start programs in Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services. Head Start programs are offered nationwide to help children get a jump on their education.

“Our programs are required to provide meals for children,” Mercurius said. “We look at the menu choices. In addition to that, we educate parents about choices for their children and the children themselves. That’s all incorporated into their daily routine.”

Teachers are also given CDs, along with dances designed for limited classroom space.

“We know that kids like to dance, like to move,” said Vanessa Rich, deputy commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services. “You don’t have to separate it. It can be an integral part of every day.”

In 2004, “I Am Moving, I Am Learning” started in 17 Head Start locations in Virginia and West Virginia. Its goals are to increase the quantity and quality of time children spend in moderate to vigorous activity and to improve healthy nutrition choices for kids.

“We make it real,” Rich said. “Some of our children will never see Brussels sprouts unless it’s in Head Start.”

Sponsors of “I Am Moving, I Am Learning” say they hope the program will expand through their partnership with other community organizations, such as the Chicago Park District and the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children.

“The thing that’s really unique about Chicago,” said Christy Kierig, communications manager for the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, “is that we’ve been mobilized in Chicago since 2003.”

One of their campaigns, called 5-4-3-2-1, Kierig said, is a “daily recommendation for healthy lifestyles for kids and families.”

Illinois is the 10th-worst state for childhood obesity, according to a 2007 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with 34.9 percent of the state’s children overweight or obese. The National Survey of Children’s Health ranked the weight of children aged 10 to 17.

Related Links:
Let’s Move
CLOCC’s 5-4-3-2-1 campaign to fight childhood obesity

5-4-3-2-1: Fighting childhood obesity on a daily basis
5 – Servings of fruits and vegetables
4 – Servings of water
3 – Servings of low-fat dairy
2 – Or less hours of screen time
1 – Or more hours of physical activity
Source: The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children

See this article at the Medill News Service

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