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‘KIDZ Squad’ encouraging healthy eating among youth

As part of the Woodridge Park District’s commitment to strengthen our community by addressing health, nutrition and wellness initiatives through education and active participation, our “KIDZ Squad” after-school program has implemented an exciting new program for the children.

The newly created “Marathon Club” curriculum encourages children and their families to commit to forming healthy habits. The curriculum is funded by a grant received from the DuPage County Health Department in conjunction with the “FORWARD” (Fighting Obesity Reaching healthy Weight Among Residents of DuPage) initiative.

The program has three target goals: fitness, nutrition and limited screen time.

At the start of each KIDZ Squad day, children are given a pedometer to track their steps. The goal is to complete 26 miles or 65,500 steps over a 10-week period. Prizes are awarded at step milestones: 5,000, 10,000, 25,000 and 50,000.

After five weeks, all 130 children have reached at least the first milestone and one child has completed a total of 64,000 steps.

The children are having a blast with the nutrition component by challenging each child to try 26 new food items.

One new food item is offered weekly at group snack time. In addition, the children and their families have been very adventurous trying new items at home.

Each child maintains a food log that lists each new food item tried and records whether they liked it or not. Many of the children have tried for the first time eating food items such as fish or sushi; and one family has tried African goat.

When 26 new foods have been logged, a prize is awarded.

The final component has presented the most challenging. On average, U.S. children spend 27 hours per week in front of a screen (TV, computer, video game). Our goal is to limit screen time to a maximum two hours per day over a 26-day period.

There were a few boos when this part of the program was introduced but the children are making great strides toward limiting their screen time and becoming more active.

As a group, the children of KIDZ Squad have greatly increased their activity level since the start of the program. Families have embraced the challenge of trying new foods and limiting family screen time.

The “Marathon Club” is a fun way to motivate our youth and their families to create a more healthy and active lifestyle.

Angie McGrath is a recreation coordinator at the Woodridge Park District.

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