In Los Angeles and California, we’re facing an obesity crisis. Research shows that more than 20% of kids in grades 5th-9th are obese, and these numbers only continue to climb into adulthood. I’m a Registered Dietician and the Fit by 5 Health and Wellness Project Lead at Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP). Our non-profit organization is working with preschools throughout Los Angeles County to help educate providers and parents about obesity prevention. We support these efforts by providing resources and strategies to ensure that our preschoolers don’t become part of the 20% obesity statistics by age 11.
Through LAUP’s partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Obesity Prevention Initiative, in 2010, we received a two-year grant of $400,000 to focus on policy and program development targeting obesity prevention through healthy eating and physical activity.
This funding was vital for us to help educate preschool teachers and parents about the importance of healthy choices, since studies show that 90% of a child’s brain development occurs by age 5. Exposure to eating a balanced diet coupled with regular physical activity play an important role in healthy brain development and instills healthy habits that can last a lifetime. For example, we selected classroom props and materials to support more exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as learning through movement.
At LAUP, are also excited to announce the launch of our new Fit by 5 program to offer health and wellness strategies to our entire network of approximately 325 preschools throughout Los Angeles County. LAUP will conduct workshops for both preschool providers and parents. In addition, we are considering ways to increase activity levels in the community such as introducing the concept of LAUP Parent Walking Groups.
The feedback from parents has been amazing. We’re learning that their children are coming home and requesting healthier snacks and drinks, because even as the Cookie Monster says, “fruit is an anytime food and cookies are a sometime food.”
For more information about high-quality preschool programs in Los Angeles County, please visit www.laup.net or call 1.866.675.5400.