Initiated in 2006 to help combat the rising rates of pediatric obesity, Blythedale and Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well is a nutrition outreach program that services elementary and middle schools, K-8 students, and parents throughout Westchester and Lower Putnam counties.
Staffed by two dietitians, the program provides nutrition and wellness lessons in the classroom and aims to supply schools with the auxiliary resources needed to meet, or exceed, the functional knowledge components for physical activity and nutrition outlined in the New York State Health Curriculum. Equally important, the lessons provide students and families with repetitive messages about healthy lifestyle habits, and the practical knowledge needed to help shift behaviors toward those that promote well-being and stave off excessive weight gain in the pediatric population. In addition to the classroom lessons, the program offers staff and parent workshops, participates in school health fairs, hosts an array of community events, and uses various media outlets to dispense valuable information to the districts we serve. Through generous grant funding from Kohl's Department Stores, Blythedale and Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well continues to offer all services and materials free of charge.
For those parents who do not come out to the workshops, the program communicates key messages and guidelines via handouts the children take home on each topic presented. The parent and staff outreach component is designed with the goals of creating dialogue in the home and classroom after we leave, and for all environments to be on the same page with regard to current recommended guidelines and healthy practices that foster health and wellness.
By emphasizing healthy eating and daily physical activity habits at young ages in schools and to parents and adults in the community, the program conveys the message that children, as well as adults, can make informed choices and facilitate change in their environments and daily lives that positively impact their long-term health.
Meeting a Community Need
Dedicated to improving the quality of life and health of children, Blythedale and Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well is a community-based extension of the hospital’s overall advocacy, vision and mission. The program was created to help address the rising rates of pediatric obesity in Westchester County. Statistically, 19.1 percent of Westchester’s pediatric population (ages 4-17 years) are obese, while the national average of pediatric obesity is 17 percent. Initial assessments revealed most initiatives focused on pediatric obesity were geared toward treating the medical and psychosocial comorbidities for those already obese, but few, if any, resources were allocated to large scale prevention measures.
Understanding that prevention of obesity during the childhood years is likely the single most effective approach for addressing the obesity epidemic, the hospital decided to develop a comprehensive, age-appropriate curriculum that arms children and families with practical and useful skills and knowledge. Schools seemed to offer an ideal and effective setting to reach high numbers of children and provide in-depth nutrition education to offset these negative trends. Upon further investigation, most schools openly admitted to not having the time or resources to meet the nutrition standards set forth in the state health curriculum.
Schools are faced with a greater demand for core curriculum time in addition to ongoing cuts and financial constraints, which are barriers to providing adequate and necessary nutrition education and physical activity within the school day. Thus, Blythedale and Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well would meet the community’s needs on various fronts and our mission was created.
For more information, or to bring Blythedale and Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well
programming to your school, please contact Blythedale's Director of Community Relations Lena Cavanna at (914) 831-2410 or via email at LenaC@blythedale.org