Program aims to help end childhood obesity

A new and free initiative hopes to eliminate childhood obesity before it begins.

A new and free initiative hopes to eliminate childhood obesity before it begins.

The MEND program — an acronym for mind, exercise, nutrition, do it! — is a joint effort of Family Services of Central Alberta (FSCA) and Alberta Health Services.

The 10-week program for two-to-four-year-olds kicks off on Thursday.

Judy Scott, the FSCA’s children and youth services manager, said MEND is designed to educate families about healthy lifestyle and food choices.

“Two-to-four-year-olds are learning about new foods. Some can be picky eaters.

“Families work through strategies and pick new foods so that children will be interested in them.”

The first third of the 90-minute classes is spent in active play to encourage physical activity, explained Scott. Then 15 minutes are spent eating a healthy snack before the last, more educational half of the class gets underway.

“In the last 45 minutes, parents discuss the healthy eating initiative while children still play.”

MEND is modelled on a British program that began a decade ago. It has since spread to the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark and consists of four separate programs designed for ages two to five, six to 11, seven to 13 and adults.

Scott said the new course is already full, but FSCA will offer it again in January, as well as another designed for seven-to-13-year-olds. Space is limited to between 10 and 15 families, depending on the number of children in each family.

More information is available by calling the FSCA’s Michelle McCabe at 403-309-8211 or emailing her at mmccabe@fsca.ca.

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