On Aug. 14 and Aug. 23, community leaders, parents and people who care for and about children will gather to learn how to keep kids healthy.
According to Marna Canterbury, community health and wellness director for the Lakeview Foundation (to which Stillwater Medical Group in Somerset belongs), almost one quarter of the children in the Midwest are overweight or obese. Canterbury said this is a dramatic increase.
"It is a symptom of children not having the same healthy environment that they might have had 30 years ago," Canterbury said.
So, the Lakeview Foundation decided to do something about it. The foundation began the PowerUp movement, Canterbury said, in order to educate adults on ways they encourage healthier habits among kids and be better role models for children.
"We also know in communities where it's fun and popular and encouraged by adults, that being active and eating fruits and vegetables is 'just what we do,'" Canterbury said, "that children will have an easier time and have a more fun time and they naturally make choices that will benefit them in the long term."
The kickoff event is on Aug. 14 at 7:30 a.m. at the Stillwater Minn. Historic Courthouse, and Aug. 24 at 4 p.m. at Somerset High School. However, Canterbury said this will be an ongoing, long-term movement. In five or 10 years, Canterbury said she would like to see children eating fruits and vegetables easily, and being active every day.
"That's really our vision for what we hope to accomplish," Canterbury said.
Canterbury said two main ways to keep kids healthy is to encourage them to eat healthy foods and keep active. Canterbury recommended eating enough fruits and vegetables to fill half of a dinner plate. She also said some small things families can do to keep their kids healthy are having a meal as a family and doing family activities, like going on a walk or playing catch. She said a family meal could be once or twice a week or every day of the week.
"Those sound like simple changes," Canterbury said, "but those changes have a lot of power when it comes to children growing up."
The PowerUp movement recommends kids and families eat five different fruits and vegetables a day, of four colors or more, have three meals a day, have no more than two hours of "screen time" with the computer, television, cell phone or other electronic devices, play for at least one hour every day and drink water, milk or fruit juice instead of sugary drinks like sports drinks or pop.
Canterbury said it is important for adults to model healthy behavior for children, especially parents.
"Kids eat what they're offered," Canterbury said, "and they also eat what their parents eat."
So, if parents both serve their children healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and eat those foods themselves, Canterbury said children will follow suit.
But parents aren't the only ones children look up to as role models, Canterbury said. The upcoming PowerUp kickoff event will focus on community leaders and individuals that have the opportunity to influence children's healthy choices. Canterbury said this may include people who work in the food industry, parks and recreation or schools or other businesses or organizations that can make some small changes that could improve children's health.
"It's really an event for adults and the people who care about the children in the community to see what we can all bring to the table," Canterbury said, "and see what we can do to make the next generation healthier."
There will be more family- and children-oriented PowerUp programs in the future, Canterbury said. The PowerUp kickoff event is free, but the Lakeview Foundation asks that people register by going to www.powerup4kids.org or emailing powerup4kids@lake view.org.