URI, Shape Up RI program to foster healthy habits kicks-off Sept. 27

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Kids take pledge to move more, eat more fruits, vegetables

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 26, 2012 — The gymnasium at Calcutt Middle School in Central Falls will be hopping on Thursday, Sept. 27, as 220 students slip on veggie glasses, set their new pedometers to zero, and begin walking and clicking their way to more exercise and healthier eating, with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables.

In a new partnership, the University of Rhode Island’s SNAP-Ed Program joins Shape Up RI Kids to foster healthy habits to address the growing health concerns of overweight and physically inactive kids.

SNAP-Ed is the nutrition education arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), administered through URI’s Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, which helps families eat better on a limited budget.

At Thursday’s kickoff, students will play relay and board games, taste-test new recipes, take a pledge to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, and measure and report their successes. Students will also participate in a 6-week nutrition series that follows the program.

“When you give kids a chance to taste a variety of fruits and vegetables, they love them,” said Linda Sebelia, director of the URI program. “And if they eat them instead of high fat foods, they are well on their way to a healthier life.”

Last year SNAP-Ed offered nutrition activities to over 6,000 Rhode Island youths ages 5-17 in classrooms, after-school and summer programs, and through parks and recreation departments.

According to Sebelia, children and adults who are overweight or obese are much more likely to encounter chronic health problems like diabetes and heart disease, so the need for education about healthy eating and exercise is crucial. Recent surveys conducted by the Rhode Island Department of Health found that 27 percent of kindergarten students and 40 percent of seventh graders are overweight or obese.

Shape Up RI, created by former Brown medical student, Rajiv Kumar, has enlisted over 60,000 Rhode Islanders during the last six years to pledge to record daily steps, aiming for an average of 10,000 per day. As in the adult program, students will record the number of steps they walk each day for 6 weeks in addition to the quantity of fruits and vegetables they consume.