Family Health Magazine - NUTRITION
One community-driven program, MOVE, serves as an example of how this information can be effectively delivered to families.
MOVE (Making Our Vermilion Energized) began in January 2003 in the rural community of Vermilion, Alberta. MOVE involved children in kindergarten through grade 8, their families, and the community. It was sponsored by the Public Health Agency of Canada, due to concern about the rising rates of overweight and obesity in school-aged children.
Living a healthy lifestyle can be challenging. To help with this, MOVE offered all of its programs at little or no cost. Many families were able to participate in MOVE programs and activities as they were held at schools. The program worked to make people more aware of healthy eating and active living. It also attempted to provide families with the tools and information necessary to stay active and eat well.
Health classes were a logical place for MOVE to begin teaching school children about health and wellness. Teachers were provided with the information they needed to make healthier choices themselves and make learning fun for their students. Real-life examples gave teachers, students, and parents ideas on how to make healthier choices at home.
Learning about Liquid Candy: Kids discovered the amount of sugar contained in some of their favourite drinks. The drink container was set out, along with the number of one-teaspoon sugar packages that it contained. For instance, a can of cola would have 10 packages of sugar placed beside it.
Snacks that Make the Grade: Parents received an easy-to-use guide on common pre-packaged snacks. Each item was given a grade of A, B, C, or D according to its nutritional value (see adjacent chart).
Quick Foods Made Healthier: Students learned how to add more nutrition to popular convenience foods. One example was ramen noodles, which can be made healthier by adding vegetables, meat and a glass of milk. Kids were then challenged to come up with a healthier alternative to these noodles.
MOVE also worked with school staff and school councils to develop nutrition policies. Types of foods used for fundraisers, special event days, cafeteria sales, and vending machines were all examined. At one time, the elementary school in Vermilion offered only candy, pop and other low-nutrient foods at its annual track and field day. For the last two years, a new healthier menu has been offered. The revised menu includes hamburgers, hot dogs, frozen yogurt tubes, pretzels, water and 100 per cent fruit juice.
After-school and evening programs helped children and their families to develop important life skills. During after-school cooking classes, kids learned how to make healthy meals and snacks. Open family gym nights gave families an opportunity to play together. Summer programs helped kids stay active and healthy during the school break.
Recess gave kids another chance to learn about active living. MOVE’s activity boxes held inexpensive items that could be used to get the whole family on their feet. Students could use them on the playground during recess, or sign them out to take home. Activity boxes held items such as skipping ropes, Chinese jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, bean bags, coloured scarves, foam Frisbees and beach balls. Instruction books with ideas for games incorporating each item were also included.
All of MOVE’s programs included physical activity and healthy eating, as the two really go hand in hand. On gym nights, healthy snacks were always provided. During cooking class, energizers gave a chance to talk about the importance of eating well and staying active.
Vermilion held a free one-day Cool MOVE Winterfest on Family Day 2005, and won a Community Choosewell award as a result. The activities at Winterfest included snoccer (snow soccer), jam can curling, skating, curling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, horse-drawn sleigh rides and a business toboggan challenge.
Residents of Vermilion received many benefits from hosting MOVE, including improved business partnerships and community spirit. The MOVE program won national acclaim from Dietitians of Canada, and was awarded the Speaking of Food and Healthy Living Award in 2005. It is just one of many successful school-based programs aimed at helping children learn about healthy living. If your child’s school isn’t promoting nutrition, exercise and healthy behaviour, encourage the administration and teachers to do so.