Salem County kids practice healthy eating and fitness with new county-wide initiative

A new initiative to promote nutrition and help combat childhood obesity in Salem County kicked-off this week with a day of fun, fitness and healthy snacks for children at the YMCA of Salem County.

The Salem Health and Wellness Foundation, in partnership with The Food Trust and the YMCA, launched its new “Healthy Kids, Bright Futures” initiative on Wednesday in the YMCA auditorium.

The event included information on nutrition for children and parents, fitness activities, music, and samples of healthy snacks.

“Access to healthy foods is an issue in Salem County, and childhood obesity is an issue throughout the country,” said Executive Director of the Salem Health and Wellness Foundation Brenda Goins. “Our board decided we’d like to focus in on an initiative. Healthy eating and physical activity are very important, and we felt this was an area where we could really make an impact.”

According to New Jersey Kids Count data, Salem County ranked 20th out of New Jersey’s 21 counties for health outcomes and near the bottom of all counties for childhood obesity. To combat these statistics, the foundation plans to work to promote healthy food access, nutrition and fitness education, access to safe and open play spaces for children, farm to table programs, and resources that enable school cafeterias to meet new federal food mandates.

“We’re hoping to eventually reduce obesity in children in Salem County and provide nutrition information and programs to help them lead healthier lives,” said foundation board chairman Ernie Henderson. “Working with The Food Trust, we’ll be able to collect data from our schools and communities, then we’ll know how big the problem is, and how to solve it.”

The Food Trust, a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia, is working to support the foundation’s initiative by providing information on available programs and grants to support health and wellness, as well as guidance to make the “Healthy Kids, Bright Futures” initiative a success.

For Wednesday’s kickoff event, parents and children at the YMCA spent time learning about healthy eating and fitness, and trying new, healthy snacks.

“We’ve gotten a lot of good information,” said Penns Grove resident Latasha Robinson, who attended the kickoff with her three children. “This event is phenomenal, I just hope this information spreads out to more parents. It’s important to learn about healthy habits.”

Her son Isaiah, 12, said he was surprised to learn about the amount of sugar in soda, and said he now plans to drink less.

Abasi Moyenda, of Penns Grove, attended the event with his daughter Atiyana. He said he learned about drinks like ice tea and fruit juices that had surprising amounts of sugar, and had a chance to sample a delicious apple dip for a healthy snack.

But Atiyana, 8, said her favorite part of the event was getting active on a moon bounce.

“It was fun,” she said. “It really made me sweat.”

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