Local School Readiness Initiative Takes Aim at Childhood Obesity

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Provided by Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William

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Over one in five low-income preschoolers in Prince William County are obese. This troubling statistic prompted Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William (SBGPW) to take action, bringing Virginia’s childhood obesity prevention project, Taking Steps to Healthy Success, to over 1,400 children in 13 local child care centers.

Taking Steps to Healthy Success is a nine-month program that focuses on teaching childcare and preschool providers how to establish healthy routines within their programs that will be sustained for years to come. The program focuses on five core areas: 1) increasing fruits and vegetables, 2) decreasing sugary drinks, 3) limiting screen time, 4)increasing physical activity, and 5) increasing the percentage of breastfeeding mothers. The program is funded though a grant from Nemours and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and is valued at over $5,000 per center, which includes a $500 stipend and $1,500 in materials from General Mills. Each participating center selects lifestyle areas they intend to improve throughout their center.

Here are three of the success stories at Prince William area childcare centers.

Caterpillar Clubhouse in Manassas revised its menus to include kid-approved recipes made from healthy ingredients such as fresh fruits and whole grains. PWL The children participate in a sunrise walk on Wednesdays and they enjoy lots of physical activities such as “Dance Party Fridays,” the “Turkey Trot” and the “Reindeer Run.” The school’s spring gardening program helps children to learn where food comes from as they eat fresh produce. They also no longer serve juice, replacing it with water and fresh fruit.

Cougar Elementary School in Manassas Park has prioritized healthy eating habits and physical activity. The teachers and students eat together in the classroom, where they practice “family-style” dining to engage in conversation, learn manners and try different types of food. The cafeteria has been transformed into a multipurpose room for exercise and movement. To promote “farm-to-table” lifestyles, the children have helped to plant food items in garden boxes and their parents are invited to attend workshops on developing healthy eating habits at home.

Minnieland Academy in Bristow now serves fruit-infused water and menus include fresh fruits and vegetables. Outdoor playtime has been extended to encourage more physical activity. The school provides appropriate private space for mothers to breastfeed and also offers information on nutrition, breastfeeding and developmental milestones.


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