Chicago organizations in the fight against childhood obesity

In ourJanuary issue, we looked at the alarming rise in childhood obesity. Now, in our “Learning to Live Healthy” web series, we’re shining a spotlight on three Chicago organizations doing something about it.

This month, we’ll be profiling a city charter school where the kids do yoga, a north suburban nonprofit teaching cooking skills for busy families, and one museum’s efforts to bring kids a little closer to their food.

This month, we’ll be profiling a city charter school where the kids do yoga, a north suburban nonprofit teaching cooking skills for busy families, and one museum’s efforts to bring kids a little closer to their food.

Chicago charter school emphasizes health, fitness and yoga

This is the first in our “Living Healthy” series, in which we’ll be profilingorganizations on the front lines of the fight against childhoodobesity. Check back on Mondays in April for more stories.

LIVING HEALTHY

A Web-only series from Chicago Parent

JanuaryIn our

January issue,
we looked at the alarming rise in childhood obesity. On Mondays in
April, we’re shining a spotlight on three Chicago organizations
doing something about it.

Check back on April 12 for the nextstory on a north suburban non-profitteaching healthy eating,one rice cooker at a time.

It’s 8:15 on a chilly, damp morning in late winter, andkids’ voices are bouncing off the gym walls. Actually, so are someof the kids.

But suddenly, the room quiets and music comes on over theloudspeaker. The kids take one deep breath, then another, and reachtheir arms over their heads as “Here Comes the Sun,” by TheBeatles, fills the room.

This is Morning Movement, a daily exercise and stretchingsession at NamasteCharter School on Chicago’s Southwest
Side.

Namaste may very well be the healthiest public school inChicago. Kids have an hour of gym every day, the only grains arewhole grains, and turkey burgers are the most popularlunch.

“It’s not what people expect to see in a public school,”principal Allison Slade says.

Maybe it should be. Between 15 and 20 percent of thenation’s school-aged kids are now characterized as obese, andChicago’s preschoolers are overweight at twicethe national rate. Race and poverty exacerbate the
gap: A2004 study
found that around half of children in majority black and
Hispanic neighborhoods in Chicago’s South and West Sides were
overweight, compared to just 10 percent in Norwood Park, which is
88 percent white.

And Namaste, at the corner of 37th Place and Paulina onthe city’s Southwest Side, is at the center of the storm. It’s opento all CPS students, but draws heavily from the surroundingMcKinley Park and Back of the Yards neighborhoods. About 75 percentof its 360 students are Hispanic, and almost 90 percent qualify forfree or reduced-price lunches, a broadly used measure ofpoverty.

Which means that for a school on a health mission, Namastehas a tough row to hoe; more th


Nonprofit teaches healthy eating, one rice cooker at a time

Of all the statistics on childhood obesity, perhaps none is morestriking than this: If current trends continue, 1 in 3 childrenborn in the year 2000 will develop diabetes during theirlifetime.

For Kathryn Guylay, who welcomed daughter Elena in 2000, thatnumber hit hard.

“That’s my daughter, her friends, her classmates,” Guylay says.”That struck very, very close to home.”

So the Winnetka mom took her passion for nutrition andbackground in marketing and management and got cooking –literally. Guylay founded Nurture, a growing
nonprofit that helps low-income families in the northern suburbs
shop, cook and eat healthier. She recruited a board full of
like-minded women, including a personal trainer, dietician and
registered nurse and the program now reaches hundreds of area
families through food pantries and school programs.

Too often, Guylay says, she hears that eating healthy is tooexpensive, too complicated or takes too long. So the program takeseach of those barriers head-on, with recipes that rely heavily onslow-cookers, stress whole grains and fresh produce, and come inunder $1.50 per serving.

“Flip the switch, go to work and come home to a healthy mealforless than you’ll pay at a drive-thru,”Guylaysays.

All the recipes taught in Nurture’s classes and posted onitsWeb site include a
per-serving cost.

Audio Slideshow

TIPS FOR HEALTHY EATING

Nurture’s staff shared their tips forgetting your kids to eat the good stuff. Need tips on how toprepare it? Go to nurtureyourfamily.org and click
on Recipes.

1. Don’t give up.

It takes about a dozen times for kids to try a new food beforethey like it, Nurture’s dietician Juliette Britton says. Start withnon-tasting exposure: Have your kids touch, smell and learn about anew food. “Then when they see it on their plate, they’ll recognizeit and they’ll feel more comfortable,” Britton says.

2. Food passport.

Your kids may be a little young for international travel, but trya food passport. They can get stickers for trying new andinteresting foods. And the incentive to fill up their books willhave them jumping at the chance for more stamps.

3. Everything in moderation.

It’s a truism, but it’s also true. Don’t be food cops,
Britton says, and don’t engage in “food power struggles.” Instead,
allow your kids to have dessert, but make sure they know it’s
special.

4. Frame the conversation.

Nurture uses “go foods” and “slow foods,” playing on kids’ naturalpreference for, well, going. All the time.

The program received a grant for $1,000 in February for its ricecooker programs, which gives rice cookers to expectant mothers, andteaches them how to cook whole grains, a major part of its


Notebaert’s Nature’s LunchBox exhibit serves up lessons and laughs

The more we hear about kids’ health, eating and exercise habits,the worse it gets, and there’s no shortage of organizations rollingup their sleeves.

The Peggy Notebaert NatureMuseum has jumped in with its newest exhibit, Nature’s
LunchBox, which presents a big-picture view of food systems that
engages kids of all ages.

The exhibit, which opened earlier this fall, teaches kids abouthow food travels from the farm to their kitchen. It encourageschildren to make positive food choices, such as eating freshproduce and avoiding processed foods.

“Food does not just appear magically in our lunchboxes, nor doesit disappear magically when we’re done with it. We want ourvisitors to become more conscious consumers-for the environment andfor their own health,” said Deborah Lahey, the museum’spresident.

Amy Langdon is a writer for the Medill News Service.


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