Many years ago, as a newspaper reporter in New York, I wrote a series about living conditions among migrant laborers on Long Island. These people and their families lived in squalid labor camps in communities that were right next to the Hamptons, where some of the wealthiest people in America spent their summers. Although the workers passed their days picking potatoes, tomatoes and other vegetables, they had little access to a balanced diet and no decent kitchens in which to prepare meals.
I thought until recently that this problem had been solved in our country. Then I became active in G3 Health and Fitness, a New Jersey not-for-profit organization dedicated to reducing obesity in children, especially in Burlington and Gloucester Counties. I learned that one-third of children in America are obese and that the numbers for the counties where G3 does most of its work are hardly better. For example, 37% of non-Hispanic black children in Gloucester County are obese.
Particularly shocking is the fact that, in the middle of this epidemic of obesity, there is a parallel epidemic of hunger. One in four children in our country don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Many of them go to school without breakfast, which has a major effect on their ability to learn. Don’t think that there aren’t plenty of these children in the communities right around us.
If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend that you watch a new documentary film called “A Place at the Table,” which tells the story of several American families and their struggle to give themselves decent food. This movie is available for free at Xfinity on Demand and I strongly urge you to see it.
As I said, obesity and hunger are actually related problems. Buying healthy fresh ingredients is actually more expensive than buying sugar and salt-filled fast food and snacks. Even for middle class families, and especially for working parents who have little time to prepare healthy meals, a diet almost guaranteed to make the family fat is difficult to avoid.
G3 has been working on this problem in many ways, with exercise classes, health and nutrition talks and other programs. Most recently, G3 instituted a 10-week program at the Kennedy Center in Willingboro to teach children and their parents about a healthy lifestyle. Most important, the program is designed to be fun, including dodge ball, kick boxing, Zumba, cooking demonstrations and other activities that all participants will love. The classes are taught by a registered dietician and a personal trainer.
Working together, we can solve the obesity and the hunger crisis, here and throughout America. Let’s get started.
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.
President Obama, in a joint action with Congress, signed a proclamation naming September “National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month”. Obviously inspired by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, the President says:
“Each of us can play a role in ensuring our children have the opportunity to live long, healthy lives, and by joining together in pursuit of that mission, I am confident we can build a brighter future for America’s youth.”
The statistics on soaring obesity rates in the US over the last four decades are sobering. Google “childhood obesity” to see the staggering number of children who are obese and the escalating toll it is taking on their health in terms of diabetes and hypertension. Further research will tell you about the relationship of obesity to bullying, educational malaise and the burden on our health care system.
It’s no coincidence that September was chosen as the month to raise awareness for Childhood Obesity. September marks the beginning of the school year and the season that we have the opportunity to help our children “Fall” into learning. So as they pick up pencils, binders, books and iPads, why shouldn’t they pick up some strategies to help them eat better and get some exercise? Just as we want their educational learning to last a lifetime it’s important that the lessons of healthy eating and active lifesytles last a lifetime too.
It is said that it takes a village to raise a kid, right? I would go a step further and say that everyone in the village has a role to play in raising healthy, active kids. If we commit some energy to this, we have a unique opportunity to turn the epidemic around. This September, let’s focus on our kids, our families, our communities and our schools and some easy, creative strategies to promote health and get kids moving.
Here’s what we can do:
* The Food Pyramid is out and the healthy plate is in! Put a copy of the healthy plate on your refrigerator and together with your kids meet the challenge of preparing healthy meals everyday. Find the healthy plate at ChooseMyPlate.gov .
*Use ChooseMyPLate.gov as a resource for healthy eating
*Limit tv and video game time to 1-2 hours a day. Get your kids walking the dog, or going to the playground. Get in on the fun and take a jog or throw a ball with them!
*Talk with your kids about what they eat outside of the home.
*Use “the method of the Grandmother”. Encourage your kids everytime they tell you about making a healthy food choice.
*Give your children chores. Sweeping, mopping, mowing the lawn and dusting burn calories too!
*Teachers and administrators be role models by leading an active lifestyle.
*School staff have lunch with the students and let them see your healthy food choices.
*Use a period to tie your teaching subject to nutritous eating.
*Use a period to take students for a walk or engage in some form of exercise.
*Introduce a fruit or vegetable in class, have the students do research on why that food is good for them.
*Check out the Healthier US School Challenge and plant a school garden.
*Challenge your school to provide healthier and more satisfies food choices for the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs.
*Host nutritional seminars in places of worship, youth centers and YMCA’s. Once again using ChooseMyPlate.gov for building healthy menus.
*Offer weekly exercise programs in your congregation, community centers and health facilities.
*Organize people and solicit organizations to create a community food garden. USDA has a People’s Garden Website that can help. www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden
*Nudge your local elected officials; they have a unique ability to act on our behalf when they know we exercise our voting rights!
* People and organizations build relationships with grocery stores and retailers for better access to healthy food in underserved areas.
The challenge in fighting this epidemic lies in the partnership between children and their parents or caregivers, their schools, and their communities. We all know that implementing changes and breaking unhealthy habits is not easy! Let’s start, this September, helping children understand the importance of making healthy choices and staying active. Our collective actions will ensure a healthy future for us all.
G3 Health and Fitness, Inc. spent a part of Earth Day – April 22nd – with an energetic Girl Scouts troop from the Burlington-Camden County area. The Girl Scouts, some of their moms and leaders participated in a lively, fun, and educational, free fitness Jamboree held at the Kennedy Center in Willingboro, NJ.
G3 volunteers, dedicated to the fight against childhood obesity and to helping families, led all of the sessions.
Vikki, a skilled trainer and G3 leader, got the group fired up with Zumba, a Latin-inspired fitness dance party. By the end of the session, group members had boosted their metabolism …. doing it to hip-hop and Cumbia music.
Nicole, a spunky, registered dietitian, brought a fresh, interactive learning approach, which encouraged the girls to look for ways to eat healthier.
Sue, another G3 leader and expert trainer, directed the group with gentle Yoga poses, designed to relax their muscles and decreased their heart rate.
After such an impactful fitness workshop on Earth Day, I thought about the parallels between the “Earth Day” and “Let’s Move” initiatives. Just as the environmental movement was mobilized in Congress by a bi-partisan effort to establish Earth Day, so has First Lady Michelle Obama started a national movement to take better care of our bodies with healthier diets and more physical activity. Evidence of Earth Day’s success can be seen in widespread recycling, creation of the EPA, toxic substance controls and other environmental actions. Mrs. Obama’s initiative is starting a movement that crosses generations. “Let’s Move” has been successful in passing the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which provides that all children have access to healthier foods at school. With this act, the amount of fruits and veggies has doubled in school lunches.
The Healthy US School program has been rolled into “Let’s Move” challenges schools to meet the highest national standards for nutrition and physical activity. Several large chain grocers have committed to reduce prices of fresh produce and to reformulate many of their private-label processed foods by 2015 to reduce sodium, sugar and trans fats.
G3’s mission is to fight childhood obesity, by helping families: Get Moving, Get Knowledge, Get Healthy and Strong. Local programs like the one G3 held for the Girl Scouts, help families spend quality time together, while learning about good food choices so they can get healthy and strong. Why don’t you join our Movement during Fitness Month? Get the G-facto! We need volunteers to help to change people’s lives.
New Year’s Resolutions
G3 Health and Fitness Can Help
The New Year is a revitalizing time for reflection and goal setting, not only for you but for the whole family. Studies show that the top New Years resolutions are about weight loss, and exercise.
Since one-third of families are fighting the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, why not resolve as a family to take on the G3 challenge, to “Get Moving, Get Knowledge, Get Healthier and Strong.”
Start with simple and fun exercises to Get Moving. Sign up for an up-coming G3 Zumba class or simply start walking. Walking is exercise! Walking prevents type 2 diabetes, strengthens the heart, is good for the brain and bones. Walking is a way for families to spend quality time together and it helps alleviate anxiety. It has also been reported to reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer.
Resolve to spend quality time with your family in the kitchen too. Here are a few quick, healthy snacks you can try together.
- Rocky Road: Break a graham cracker into bite-size pieces. Add to low-fat chocolate pudding along with a few miniature marshmallows.
- Mix together ready-to-eat cereal, dried fruit and nuts in a sandwich bag for an on-the-go snack.
G3 Health and Fitness understands that to win the fight against Childhood Obesity the whole family must be involved. Our mission is to offer fun exercise classes, and provide Health and Nutrition education in the community. We will expand our program to include Parent/child classes. Exercise classes is good way for the family to spend quality time together and Get Healthy and Strong.
“Like us” on Facebook to keep up with our upcoming programs!
Have a Happy, Healthy and Blessed New Year!
FORGOTTEN BUT NOT GONE
Initiated in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day. World AIDS Day is held on the first day of December each year. The day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
WHY SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT IT?
More than 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV in the US and an estimated 33.3 million people have HIV globally. Two million new infections occur each year in the world; 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, making it one of worse diseases in our history.
Many people are not aware of the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV. Stigma, shame and discrimination are real for many people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is an important reminder to the Public and Government that HIV has not gone away. We still need to increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
HOW CAN I HELP?
World AIDS Day is an opportunity for you to learn about HIV, get tested and put your knowledge into action! If you understand how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with HIV today – you are better prepared to take care of your own health. People living with HIV should be treated with dignity and respect like everyone else. You can also show your support for people living with HIV on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness. The importance of raising awareness of HIV is critical all year round.
HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus which attacks the body’s immune system — the body’s defense against diseases.
HIV can be passed on through infected bodily fluids, most commonly via sex without a condom or by sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment.
There are more than 1.2 million people living with HIV in the US, 1in 5 (20%) of those are unaware they have the virus with 50 thousand new infections each year. 
- You can get tested through a rapid test which only takes 15-20 minutes
- In NJ you can dial 1-800-624-2377 for testing
- HIV is a Chronic Disease and you can live a healthy productive life when treated
- Remember Stigma can kill because of shame and fear-Lets Break The Cycle
GET TESTED, GET EDUCATED and KNOW YOUR STATUS!
Anastasia Gray, MSN, CRNP
Childhood Then and Now
I spent my childhood in the 1940s and ‘50s half an hour from Manhattan in a neighborhood that was made famous years later by the TV character Archie Bunker.
It was certainly no one’s idea of country living, yet my life was nothing like that of a suburban child today. After school, we would throw our book bags in the house and head for the streets for games of stickball and punchball, broken up every few minutes to let a car pass by. Or we would go to the nearby woods (later to become an apartment project) for bike rides and wrestling matches. All this would end at dinner time, when our mothers would yell for us to return for a home cooked meal.
There were no computer games. Life on the streets was probably less safe than our parents thought, but no one required us to stay within sight. McDonald’s and the other fast food places didn’t exist yet, so our portions weren’t supersized and calorie laden.
One result of all that was that very few of us were overweight. It’s amazing to realize that 65% of children and teens in New Jersey today are overweight or obese .The health implications of this problem are enormous. Type 2 diabetes, which used to be called adult-onset diabetes, is now a common condition of childhood. Most people of my generation can expect to have longer lives than their parents, thanks largely to better health care. Our children and grandchildren, unfortunately, are likely to have shorter lives because they eat worse and exercise less than us.
We aren’t about to re-create the woods and open spaces of my childhood. But we can encourage our children to get away from the computer games, go outside and maybe learn how to run a bit wild, how to invent new games, how to play with their friends. That, after all, is what being a child is about. And we can prepare nutritious food for them and try to get them to actually like it.
G3 Health and Nutrition Series
Offered at the Kennedy Center, Willingboro
Those of you following G3 Health and Fitness have learned that we keep pretty busy. G3 has to stay busy to battle childhood obesity.
With one in four children in the Philadelphia area classified as obese, G3 Health and Fitness hopes to have everyone in Willingboro and the surrounding areas capture the G-Factor: Get Moving, Get knowledge and Get Healthy and Strong. If it isn’t the exhilarating, fast-paced Zumba class geared for children, then it is developing informative health tips for their parents!
Beginning Tuesday October 11th, 2011 G3 Health and Fitness, in conjunction with the Willingboro Recreation and Parks Department, will launch a six week Health and Nutrition Series for parents, as well as a Zumba class twice a week for children
The G3 Health and Nutrition Series is taught by professionals – Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, Dentists and Nutritionists. It is free of charge, although donations are always welcome. Seminars are from 6-6.45pm on Tuesdays.
October 11 – Halting Hypertension
October 18 – Controlling Diabetes
October 25 – Necessity of Nutrition
November 1 – Battling Obesity
November 8 – Sexual Health
November 15 – Dental Health and Your Family
G3’s Zumba for Kids is all about an effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired fitness dance party specially choreographed for children. It focuses on increasing their self-confidence, boosting metabolism and enhancing coordination….all wrapped up in music they love like Hip-Hop, Reggae, Cumbia and more. G3 Zumba for Kids class runs from October 11 to November 17th on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm. The cost for Residents is $30/6 wks, Non-Residents: $37/6 wks.
So why not sign your child up for the Zumba for Kids class and stop on into a free seminar? Learn a little something to help yourself and your family while your child is off dancing and having fun!
Registration for the Health and Nutrition seminars are encouraged but walk-ins are welcome. To register contact the Willingboro Recreation and Parks Department (609) 877.5700.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter recently proposed a tax on sweetened beverages such as soda, bottled iced teas and energy drinks. While this move is obviously revenue driven, it has a much more responsible and health conscious goal for one ofAmerica’s fattest cities: reducing the ever escalating obesity problem and with it reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay in children.
As a child, I remember that soda drinking was limited in our house. It was considered a treat. However in recent years, soda has become the beverage of choice in American households and the worldwide consumption of it and other sugary drinks has doubled. We and our children are drinking more of the stuff and adding a pretty large dose of nutritionally empty calories to our daily intake.
A single 12 ounce soda is about 160 calories and I’m sure we’ve all seen kids throw back a couple of cans of it a day. (In lieu of drinking water!). A study involving middle-school students over the course of 2 school years showed that the risk of becoming obese increased by 60% for every extra serving of sugar-sweetened drinks per day. YIKES! And check this out: there is even evidence to suggest that children who are chronic consumers of these beverages find that less sweet foods are unappealing. Our kids essentially lose the taste for vegetables and fruits every time they take a swig of soda!! According to the Center for Disease control, children who have such poor dietary habits and are obese at ages 10 to 15, will remain obese when they are 25. Lessening childhood obesity means less overweight adults and improving the health of Americans overall.
I could go on and on citing studies which bear out the negative effects of increased sweetened beverage consumption, so the question is, “Why do we continue to ingest the stuff ? Soda is cheap and widely available. Some folks would say it just tastes good! That might be true, but there are a number of other reasons it is appealing to us: Advertisers do a great job of making it look cool and socially acceptable to drink their products, so we tend to think more about the immediate “aahhh” of the product than the long term “oohhh” of it’s negative health effects. Lack of accurate information contributes as well; most folks don’t associate increased sugar intake to obesity and disease, and the labels don’t tell you that this stuff is hazardous to your health. It really is the obligation of government and health officials to inform and educate the public about this health threat, waging a war against it in the same way we did against cigarette smoking. Jane Q. Public is responsible for utilizing that information to live a healthier lifestyle.
I know nothing of his political views, but regarding this soda tax, Mayor Nutter’s NOT nuts! The opposition will tell us that overall these tax hikes won’t lead to any meaningful change in most peoples behavior or lifestyle, but there is evidence to dispute that. Folks drive less when the price of gas increases and smoke less when the price of cigarettes go up. I agree with nutritionists that while there is no magic bullet to solve the problem of obesity, there has to be a first step. Nutters’ proposal would be taking a crucial first step toward reducingPhiladelphia’s liquid caloric intake. And it would likely start a tidal wave of “sweet drink” tax increases in other major cities. If the tax leads to less consumption, it would ultimately lower health care costs and the increased revenue could support more healthy initiatives like childhood nutrition programs and obesity-prevention programs. And really, what’s nuts about that?
Reference: The Public Health and Economic Benefits of Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
N Engl J Med 2009; 361:1599-1605October 15, 2009
When I was approached to join G3 Health and Fitness I immediately accepted. I personally have several family members who suffer from adverse health conditions due to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. The fact is that one of every three children in America is now considered overweight or obese, and childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The results have been an increased potential for obesity-related diseases that include type-2 diabetes, asthma, hypertension, high cholesterol, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea. It is also linked to a range of social and psychological issues including poor self-esteem, depression, withdrawal and poor peer relationships. Children and adolescents who are overweight are more likely to become adults who are overweight.
What can we do?
Encourage a healthy lifestyle
By highlighting the positive turn bike riding, walking, running into family outings. G3 Health and Fitness has found that kids who exercise often have a healthier body weight than kids who don’t exercise. Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity at least 3-5 days a week. Remember that children imitate adults. Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your children to join you.
Some examples of moderate intensity physical activity include:
• Brisk walking
• Playing tag
• Jumping rope
• Playing soccer
Encourage healthy eating habits.
Help your children and family develop healthy eating habits:
• Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
• Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
• Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
• Serve reasonably-sized portions.
• Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
• Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
• Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
Remember that small changes every day can lead to a recipe for success!