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Family Y to Adopt New “Healthy Living” Standards in Its Child Care Programs

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A young student in the Westport Weston Family Y’s Early Learning Program holds up a pitcher of milk -- a healthy alternative served at the Y in place of sweetened juice.

The YMCA of the USA recently announced that it has committed to standards that would ensure that more children have access to healthy food and physical activity in 10,000 early-childhood and after-school programs across the country.

The new guidelines grow out of discussions the Y-USA has been having with First Lady Michelle Obama and Partnership for a Healthier America, a nonprofit group dedicated to supporting Mrs. Obama’s campaign to reduce childhood obesity.

As our local community’s largest provider of child care services, “the Family Y’s Early Learning Program, Kinderkids and School Age Programs are dedicated to supporting and implementing new policy changes to reflect the new healthy living standards,” says Senior Director Tasha Dennison.

Specific policies and practices already in place in the Family Y’s Child Care programs or to be adopted as soon as possible include:

  • We do not offer juice. Children are offered milk and water with snacks and meals;
  • Effective January 2012, we will begin to phase out pre-packaged snacks, substituting with healthy alternatives;
  • We will only provide whole wheat breads and pastas;
  • Children in all programs will be presented with a variety of health snack choices including, but not limited to, seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables;
  • Each group has no less than an hour each morning and afternoon to provide the children in their care with gross motor activities and challenges;
  • Children enrolled in these programs are encouraged to take part in the Y’s swimming, dance, gymnastics, yoga, karate and other classes that are both fun and healthy;
  • Teachers and children will walk to the places that are within distance, as opposed to taking our bus;
  • Video/TV usage is not permitted in any program (interactive videos games, if appropriate, are encouraged);
  • Mothers of infants are encouraged to breast feed and are provided with a private area to do so;
  • Teachers will make educating parents about these healthy living standards a priority. Sharing articles and knowledge about the reasons behind the guidelines and providing parents with resources and healthy alternatives.

The Westport Weston Family Y Early Learning Program offers developmentally appropriate care to meet the needs of families who live and work in Westport, Weston and surrounding communities. It is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) – the nation’s leading organization of early childhood professionals.

“A mark of excellence held by just 8 percent of programs in the country, NAEYC accreditation lets families in our community know that children in our program are getting the best care and early-learning experiences possible,” says Rob Reeves, Family Y CEO. “Our role in supporting this nationwide campaign to reduce childhood obesity is a critical part in fostering a healthier future for the children in our care, and through them, every member of their family.”

The new commitment is to the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and was announced at the Building a Healthier Future Summit, focused on ending the childhood obesity epidemic. PHA works with the private sector and its honorary chairwoman First Lady Michelle Obama to solve the nation’s childhood obesity crisis.

In the last few decades, childhood obesity rates have soared. Nationally, one in three children is obese or overweight, which puts children at risk for chronic diseases often seen in adults, such as high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes. This health crisis sheds light on the need to provide children and their parents the resources and the support they need to live healthier.

To learn more about the new guidelines and the Partnership for a Healthier America, please click on this link or visit www.ahealthieramerica.org. For more information about the Family Y’s Early Learning and School Age programs, please visit www.westporty.org, or contact Tasha Dennison, at 203-226-8981, ext. 113, or tdennison@westporty.org.

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