“Middle School Students Learn About Obesity, Staying Fit”
By Korey Wilson
Hour Staff Writer
April 26, 2014
NORWALK — Students at Nathan Hale and West Rocks Middle Schools are learning about the ills of childhood obesity and ways to prevent it.
The two schools have recently implemented Kids’ Fitness and Nutrition Services (Kids’ FANS) in their after school programs.
The 12-week program, sponsored by Stamford Hospital, was designed to promote smart eating, physical activity and a healthy weight among our children.
“Our vision was to have programs in an after school settings so that children could get the information and keep it fun rather than mandatory,” said Madhu Mathur, M.D., director of Kids’ FANS programs. Mathur is also an obesity medicine physician at Stamford Hospital.
“This is a message of moderation. We don’t say, ‘Don’t do certain things.’ We’re just encouraging them to eat healthier and get more active,” she said.
Throughout the program, one of the key preventative measures students are taught is the 5-2-1-0 rule, which suggests a child’s daily routine to consist of eating five fruits/vegetables, two hours or less of watching television, one hour or more of physical activity, and zero sugar-sweetened beverages.
Students meet weekly with a licensed nutritionist, who shares practical tips such as reading labels on food packages, tips on packing a healthy school lunch and how to make the right choices in a restaurant.
“I teach them how to choose meals,” said Lellieth Latchman, nutritionist at Nathan Hale’s Kids’ FANS program.
“A healthy breakfast gives them energy for the rest of the day. Later on in the day, when they’re hungry, they will make healthier choices. I also teach the importance of not overeating and choosing skim milk or water over sugary drinks.”
Kids’ FANS partnered with the Carver Foundation of Norwalk, which runs after school programs at every elementary and middle school throughout the city.
“A lot of the kids we face have issues with nutrition and obesity,” said Novelette Peterkin, executive director of the Carver Foundation. “Kids’ FANS brings the curriculum and we add the physical component.”
Physical activities include boot camp, Zumba, and physical training.
“I like this program because it teaches me how to eat right and how to have a balanced diet,” said Armani Hayes, an eighth grader at Nathan Hale.
“I have been cutting down on sugary drinks. I’m trying to eat more fruits and vegetables. This summer, I want to go running everyday so that I can stay fit.”
The Carver Foundation would like to add the Kids’ FANS program to more schools in Norwalk.
“We’re looking to expand but it’s a matter of resources. We would love to bring it to all of the middle school sites,” Peterkin said.
The Fairfield County Sports Commission and its Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy, which linked Stamford Hospital with the Carver Center, currently helps fund the two programs in Norwalk.
To date, about 1,370 students have gone through the 12-week program. The program is primarily offered at 11 different sites in Stamford.