Today’s children are suffering, and the statistics are alarming: one in three American children are overweight or obese, and one in three Americans born in the year 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes some time in their lifetime—with black, Hispanic and Native American children facing the greatest risk. This epidemic is not new news, but the situation is serious and the Y believes we must do more.
On November 30, 2011, the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) announced its commitment to the Partnership for a Healthier America to expand our longtime obligation to children and teens by adopting healthy eating and physical activity standards for our early childhood and after school programs. The YMCA of Greater Kansas City is excited to join the nation’s 2,700 Ys in helping the more than 700,000 children and teens who participate in Y programs nationwide live healthier lives.
Partnership for a Healthier America works with the private sector and its honorary chairwoman First Lady Michelle Obama to solve the nation’s childhood obesity crisis.
Locally, the YMCA of Greater Kansas City is committed to being an early adopter of the new standards and is already nearly in compliance.
The New Standards
· Establish a minimum of expected physical activity for children of different ages enrolled in our programs. Currently the YMCA of Kansas City provides a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day in Head Start, early learning and before and after school programs.
· Define food and beverages offerings, including designating water as the primary beverage during snack times and offering fruits and vegetables as snack options. Locally all Y programs designate water as the primary beverage during snack times. We already offer five fruits or vegetables a day in Head Start and Early Learning programs. Currently in after school programs, fruits or vegetables are offered as snacks three days a week, and the Y is striving to increase this to five days a week to meet the new standards.
· Limit the amount of screen time. Currently in early learning and after school programs we have no screen time. In Head Start, the only screen time we have is some computer time for educational purposes.
· Encourage breastfeeding of infants in our care. We already do this in the early learning and Head Start programs where we have infants.
· Commit Ys to conducting parent education to encourage healthy behaviors at home. We currently provide regular parent education in Head Start. Although we currently do some parent education in early learning and before and after school programs, we plan to increase parent education in these programs to meet the new standards.
Our nation can’t reverse the obesity challenge overnight, but every small step counts. Our Y remains committed to this cause.