Not Your Everyday Camp Snack…
Camps have the unique opportunity to create environments where healthy eating and physical activity are encouraged, but breaking camp snack traditions can be difficult. Camp memories of bug juice and cookies, as well sugar sweet marshmallow and chocloate “some-mores” are heartwarming, but with obesity rates escalating, the Raritan Valley YMCA and its partner, Healthier Middlesex, are working with local camps to advocate for the adoption of healthy eating and drinking policies at camp. Area camps directors have been approached by committee members to participate in an educational meeting to explain goals, objectives and reasons behind the effort in exchange for free programming at camp.
Camps that “buy in” are then asked to sign an MOU with policy adoption criteria and data collection requirements. Incentives are also provided to camps for making policy and environmental changes. Camp Directors are provided a list of free health related camp programs to select. Committee members from various social services agencies will provide programs this summer in sun safety, injury prevention, healthy cooking, and water safety. Bike rodeos and bicycle safety programming is also being provided to camps.
Another opportunity for camp staff is a free C.A.T.C.H. (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) training that teaches a curriculum of active, non-competitive games and healthy eating. The impact is growing and the Healthier Middlesex Coalition hopes to touch 1500 children this year and enroll over 8 camps in the initiative.
So give the kids some more fruit, water and exercise!
About the Grantee
In 2010, I was part of a YMCA group chosen by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for a grant to address youth obesity in select cities in NJ. The trainings I participated in changed the way I thought as a YMCA Director. The Y’s way was to create a program to fix a problem, but now I see policy and environmental change as a community approach to problem solving and advocate for change.