Two-thirds of Head Start students in Fairfax County are overweight

At their work session held June 8, Fairfax County school board members focused on the problem of the increasing percentages of young children who are overweight or obese. Karen Spencer, the early childhood program manager, said that 67 percent of Head Start students in Fairfax County were overweight or obese.

Daneane (Dee) Robinson, the chairperson of the Policy Committee Executive Board for Early Head Start (EHS) / Family and Early Childhood Education Program (FECEP)/ Head Start (HS), said that in 2010-2011 Head Start focused on health and nutrition. Family breakfasts provided families the opportunity to join their child at school for breakfast and to receive nutrition handouts with a short nutrition message and a healthy recipe they could make at home. Robinson said that children and parents were interested and excited by grocery store tours. These tours provided families with “an interactive, lane by lane opportunity to learn about healthy and affordable food options.”.. Healthy cooking demonstrations, a joint effort with Virginia Cooperative Extension, were held in the evenings and provided families with an additional method to learn about nutrition and healthy eating habits. Robinson said her children like to recite the message, “When I eat my fruit, my heart says thanks, Bump, bump, bump, my heart says thanks.”

Stuart D. Gibson (Hunter Mill) said that  several years ago President Bill Clinton told the National School Boards Association  meeting that the increasing rate of childhood obesity and Type-2 Diabetes is partly caused by the relatively low cost of foods that are high in calories. Therefore low-income children are at a higher risk. Martina A. Hone (At Large) said that obesity had relatively higher rates in the Latino and African American communities and asked what suggestions Fairfax had for those families.

The FECEP/Head Start pro gram for children three to five years old is funded to serve 1272 children in 59 elementary and 3 secondary schools throughout the country, providing services that address children’s “educational, emotional, social, health, nutritional, and mental health needs as well as the needs of the children’s families,” the annual report stated.

The Early Head Start Program for Infants, Toddlers, and Expectant Parents is a year-round comprehensive program serving expectant parents, infants toddlers (including children with disabilities) and their families. Currently 32 participants are in a class-based option and 24 students are served through the home-based option in the Reston-Herndon area.

The Fairfax County Office for Children has a waitlist of over 1,405 children for the EHS, FEC/HS programs, which is only a percentage of the children who are eligible for these programs.

The full annual report is available here:  http://bit.ly/krJgKv

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