Young dancers.

Young dancers.

By Heather Campbell

SUDBURY – Getting children to eat healthy and be more active is the aim of the Healthy Kids Community Challenge launched in February across the province. A three year program, funded by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, is helping 45 communities with programming and resources to promote healthy lifestyles. Six  communities, including Sudbury and Manitoulin Island, are receiving both financial and informational support. Sudbury’s Aboriginal Health Access Centre, Shkagamik-kwe Health Centre, is receiving up to $525,000 to support local projects and programming.
Communities will be promoting children’s health through physical activity and healthy eating choices, and for Aboriginal children, it includes integrating cultural aspects.
Angela Recollet, Shkagamik-Kwe’s executive director, shared with the families who came out for their launch at their new community site that the program offers the opportunity to revitalize the culture and identity with children. “There are 10 other Aboriginal health access centres in Ontario. Six of us that have been approved to deliver this program,” explained Recollet. “With the Healthy Kids Community Challenge we can take this opportunity to instill a good quality of life in the generations among us.”
Every nine months, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will launch a new theme for participating communities that is related to physical activity and healthy eating. The first theme, Run. Jump. Play. Every Day, encourages physical activity through a mix of active play, sports, transportation and unstructured activities. This theme is built on the fact that children naturally want to be moving.
Jasmine Battaino is the new Healthy Kids Community Challenge Coordinator for Shkagamik-Kwe and is working with community partners not only in Sudbury but with Sabrina Legault, Healthy Kids Community Challenge Coordinator for Noojmowin Teg Health Centre on Manitoulin Island.
Both Recollet and Battanio were very pleased with the full house on their launch with some of the kids on the big drum to open the event and others wearing regalia. “We want to spark the younger generation to be interested in the drumming and dancing at pow wows. These are positive activities that exert energy and at the same time teach about our culture,” said Battaino.
The Sudbury community wide launch took place on February 6 at the James Jerome Sports Complex and included a tipi where elder Stan Pelletier and Darren McGregor provided storytelling and teachings for all those who attended the outdoor event. “It was the biggest hit at Snow Day,” said Battaino. “There was a lineup with about thirty people for each sitting.”
Battaino shared that if rates of inactivity continue as they are now, future generations will turn into overweight and obese adults. The Healthy Kids Community Challenge recommends that kids should be participating in vigorous activity that makes them breathe hard and start to sweat such as swimming or playing tag three times a week. Some of the benefits to increased activity is to help kids build strong muscles and bones, maintains healthy body weight and improve self-esteem.
For more information about the Healthy Kids Community Challenge visit Ontario.ca/healthykids.