Salem Health and Wellness Foundation takes aim at childhood obesity
Monday, January 13, 2014
Posted by: Amy Seasholtz
By Alex Young/South Jersey Times | Jan 13, 2014
The Salem Health and Wellness Foundation has been working for over 10 years to promote the overall health of the residents of Salem County, but have recently started to focus their efforts on some key issues facing the area.
Executive Director Brenda Goins said the foundation has created the Healthy Kids, Bright Futures initiative that looks to tackle childhood obesity and teen pregnancy in the county.
The foundation wanted to push these issues to the forefront to ensure they got the attention they sorely needed.
"We’re going to do it in addition to the other areas we already had,” Goins said. "The board realized that, like all foundations, we want to be able to evaluate programs to see if there’s a real impact. To be able to do that, you have to focus on something and put dollars toward it.”
The decision to focus on children and youth came after the foundation looked at years of data and listen to ideas brought forward in several focus groups. The more they heard, the more the board realized where their focus should be.
"During the planning process, [obesity and teen pregnancy] were the topics that bubbled to the top,” she Goins said. "The board thought it would be important to build a healthy generation, so we wanted to focus on children growing up healthy and strong.”
In putting together their plan, the foundation enlisted the help of experts in both fields to help develop the best strategies to help children and families establish and maintain healthy lifestyles.
Even with a plan in place, the foundation has established an advisory committee to ensure that they stay on top of the issues. They already have their childhood obesity committee together, and Goins said they hope to have their teen pregnancy group together in the near future.
"We need additional input from people in the community on an ongoing basis,” she said. "That’s why these committees came about.”
They are made up of local experts, as well as people from outside the county. Representatives from the United Way of Salem County, Philabundance and Food First are all providing input for the foundation’s committee.
In addition to providing insight into new health programs, Goins the committee’s members would also help the foundation with reaching more people.
The foundation wants to start doing healthy health challenges in the county, and Goins wants the committee members to help spread the word.
"Through their contacts, we can get the word out to help promote the challenge,” she said.
One of the first campaigns the foundation is focusing its new initiative on is school breakfasts.
According to the Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), Salem County ranked 16 out of 21 New Jersey Counties for the percentage of eligible students participating in free and reduced school breakfast programs. With only 36-percent taking advantage of the program, Goins said many Salem County students aren’t getting the nutrition they need.
"The science really shows that children who eat breakfast are ready to learn and have reduced behavioral problems,” she said. Increasing the number of students who eat school breakfast can also bring in some money for the county, Goins said.
If Salem County were to achieve 100-percent participation, the county’s schools districts would receive about $1 million in additional federal money each year, according to a ACNJ report.
Goins said that much money would be enough to feed every student in the county — whether they’re eligible or not — a free breakfast.
In order to achieve this, the foundation is trying to promote "breakfast after the bell,” so that more students can take advantage of the programs they are entitled to.
"So many times students get to school just in time, or take the bus and can’t get breakfast,” Goins said. "This takes breakfast into the classroom.”
To learn more about Salem Health and Wellness initiatives, visit their website at www.salemwellnessfoundation.org.
Contact staff writer Alex Young at 856-451-1000 ext. 550 firstname.lastname@example.org