The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that childhood obesity affects about 13.7 million children and adolescents, and the largest percentage (20.6%) are teens 12 to 19 years old.
“Family meals are extremely important when it comes to reducing obesity rates, so creating a family connection is key to our efforts,” explains Janelle Garcia, PhD, government and community affairs clinical integration manager at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (JHACH) in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Researchers at the hospital were already studying the best ways to address the adolescent obesity epidemic when they received a grant from Kohl’s Cares in 2006 to create a healthy eating website for teens. The department store’s philanthropic program supports many local communities and partners with children’s hospitals around the country to promote healthier and safer lifestyles.
That initial grant led to additional support for cooking classes called “Kohl’s Cooks for Kids,” where children and teens learned to make meals for themselves and their families. Participants were introduced to a variety of new foods through lessons about the five food groups and were encouraged to try seasonal fruits and vegetables during each weekly session.
In addition, Johns Hopkins All Children’s has used Kohl’s Cares support to expand community programming through a partnership with Florida’s Pinellas County Schools that includes a high school-based, peer-led health and wellness program called the Health Squad, food pantries for students struggling with food insecurity, and the development of district-wide health and wellness education curricula.
“Kohl’s has been an incredible partner and advocate for our work,” says Kellie Gilmore, JHACH community health and wellness manager. “We wouldn’t be able to do the work we do without their support. The funds give us the ability to be innovative and respond to the needs of our local families.”
Johns Hopkins All Children’s current programs, Fit4Allkids and Fit4Allteens, are focused on engaging kids in behaviors that are associated with a healthy weight. Resources — nutrition education, cooking lessons, recipes, shopping lists, and simple exercises — are shared with kids, teens, parents, and families. More than 250,000 people have been positively impacted over the 14 years of the programming.
“I had been overweight my whole life, but I wanted to be a healthier person,” says Taylor McCullough, a former participant who has kept up a fit lifestyle. “All the tools that Fit4Allkids taught me brought me to where I am today. I recommend the program to all kids, teens, and families because it will change your life.”
Looking toward the future, the Johns Hopkins All Children’s group aims to create opportunities for families in counties outside of St. Petersburg to learn the information and skills they need to live their healthiest lives.
To learn more about the programs supported by Kohl’s Cares, visit the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Fit4Allkids page.
Topics: Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Promote and Protect Health