Mon-Aetna Childhood Enrichment Center (CEC) has been selected as one of 19 ABC Grow Healthy sites in South Carolina to test standards for healthy eating and active living in the child care setting. The project is a joint effort of the ABC Child Care program and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The findings from Mon-Aetna and the other 18 Grow Healthy sites will help the agencies develop new ABC Level B nutrition and physical activity standards.
For its part in the process, Mon-Aetna CEC is offering more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and fewer processed and high sugar foods in the breakfasts, lunches and afternoon snacks it serves to the 60 children entrusted to its care. Time has been set aside during the day to talk to the children about making healthy choices and outdoor play time now includes organized activities that get all the children involved in physical activity like running, playing ball and other games
Even better, Mon-Aetna CEC has gotten the children’s parents involved with the new emphasis on good nutrition and physical activity. Parents have made suggestions on healthy snacks they know will appeal to the children and have also expressed an interest in embracing a healthier lifestyle themselves.
This is especially welcome news because parents are their children’s most important role models. Just as a parent who embraces reading and the other habits of learning can have a positive impact on their child’s performance in school, a parent who practices a healthy lifestyle of good nutrition and exercise can decisively influence their child to do the same.
Making healthy lifestyle choices has always been important, but it’s even more important today if we as a nation are to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity that is threatening the health and well-being of too many of our children. The US Task Force on Childhood Obesity reports that nearly one in every three children ages 2-19 is overweight or obese. This is a health care disaster all the more tragic because it is easily avoidable if children are taught from an early age the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices, especially as they relate to nutrition and exercise.
“We need to start early, in the pre-school years, when habits and preference are forming,” Mon-Aetna CEC Director Susan Adams said. “Giving them chips, cookies and juice every day sure would be easy but it’s not healthy and our kids deserve better.”
She’s right. It is easy — too easy — to let children stuff themselves with junk and, sadly, far too many parents today do just that and their children are going to pay the price for it.
She is also right that children deserve better. At Mon-Aetna CEC, staff and parents are working together to give their children — and, through the ABC Grow Healthy site program, the children of South Carolina — that healthier life they deserve. We as a community should join them in this effort, start making healthy choice ourselves and inspire and encourage our children to do the same because they, like the children at Mon-Aetna CEC, deserve better.