The following examples illustrate the efforts among community partners to combat childhood obesity by providing food-choice education and consistent access to nutritious food. Most importantly, these success stories provide concrete examples of how we’re engaging families, educators, health professionals, community groups, policymakers and business leaders to make Duval County a healthy place for our children.

Metro North

 

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Episcopal Children’s Services

In 2012, the Episcopal Children’s Services (ECS) Early Head Start Center set a goal to make health, nutrition and gardening a daily part of the educational experience for children and families on the Westside of Jacksonville. Through a partnership with the Duval County Extension Office, volunteers, staff and family members worked to plant and harvest a garden, with assistance from 60 children ages 1 to 3 years old. The children’s interest in gardening grew as they helped care for the garden and sampled the various fruits, vegetables and herbs that they may not have been exposed to otherwise. In one year, the center’s garden produced nearly 50 pounds of food for at-risk families.

sftf_rot3Journey Into Womanhood

In a society where bad behavior is often celebrated in popular culture, Journey into Womanhood (JIW), an initiative of Empowerment Resources provides programs for girls ages 9 to 17 that stress the importance of academics, healthy behaviors, career skills and advocacy. In 2013, JIW introduced the Healthy E- Apprentice, a three-month marketing campaign that captured the spirit, creativity and lifestyle choices among their peers. The girls formed teams to and influence the girls possess to advocate for healthy eating, exercise create videos to be promoted via social media. To help them with their efforts, the teams met with female marketing and communication professionals who helped them to refine their messages. The teams also formed a media partnership with local health guru Dr. Fitness (Max Sturdivant, founder of Fitness Pursuits Personal Training Firm) and popular radio station 93.3 The Beat to reach a larger audience. The social media campaign far exceeded the teams’ original goals, with the winning team logging nearly 1,000 interactions and multi-media posts.

 

 

The Bridge of Northeast Florida

The Bridge of Northeast Florida provides an environment where at-risk youth gain self-confidence, receive academic remediation and job skills training. Recently, a community garden was added. This offered a new dimension to The Bridge’s existing curriculum by providing a hands-on environment where students have the opportunity to actually grow their own food. Studies have shown that when children invest in growing their own food, they tend to eat healthier and even pass this knowledge along to parents and other members of the community.

 

The Junior Master Gardener Program

In this program, Master Gardeners from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are paired with middle-school students from Duval County Public Schools to grow fresh vegetables. The Master Gardeners meet with students throughout the school year, teaching them the importance of careful planting and timely watering. Working in classroom gardens, the children have the chance to grow a variety of vegetables from potatoes to broccoli. Without this program, many students may never taste a freshly grown vegetable, missing the opportunity to develop a lifetime preference for healthy food.

 

The HERO Program

The Health Education to Reduce Obesity (HERO) program is the first in our community to offer a free mobile health education program designed to teach children about the healthy food choices and physical activity necessary to maintain good health and prevent obesity. Founded in 2010, the HERO program empowers children by teaching them how the human body works, and helping them understand how proper fitness and nutrition can positively impact their overall health. Realizing that underprivileged children may often have little guidance in making healthy choices, HERO features interactive food demonstrations, fresh food tastings and USDA educational programs.