“Who would like to help me make this salad?” the class instructor asked. In the front row, Kimberly Quintero, age 7, waved her arm eagerly. The instructor, Mohammad Haq, was part of Farm to Preschool, a national nutrition program that The Child Center of NY has brought to our Head Start in Woodside, Queens. He was teaching a group of mothers and children to make coleslaw, and he helped as Kimberly mixed fresh dill with grated cabbage and carrots.
Childhood obesity has doubled over the last thirty years—and low-income children are more likely to be overweight. The Farm to Preschool classes are just part of a broader anti-obesity health initiative that The Child Center is making throughout our early childhood programs. The initiative is anchored by a grant from BJ’s Charitable Foundation, which has increased the hours and duties of the Head Start nurse practitioner and the master’s level nutritionist.
Now, we will be able to screen all families in our Head Start programs for health problems, including obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, providing extra care for those who need it. Our nutritionist will help Head Start staff establish healthy eating habits and menus. Our food service manager, who helped bring Farm to Preschool to Woodside, will continue to keep the focus on fresh, healthy fare.
At the end of Mohammad’s class, which included tips on healthy ingredients and portion size, the group sampled the salad, nodding in approval. Maribel, a mother of two who has attended every class, said the classes gave her new ideas for family meals. Marie, a young woman who came with a friend, asked to take home the leftover dill.
“In our programs, we have a wonderful opportunity to get children started on the right path from a very early age,” said Linda Rodriguez, the associate executive director of The Child Center’s early childhood programs. “By establishing healthy eating habits and addressing health issues, we can help the whole family live better and avoid illness.”