Continuing its efforts to promote health and wellness in low-income communities, the Aetna Foundation has awarded a $40,000 grant to THINK Together to expand its Healthy Living program to eight elementary schools in El Monte for the 2013-2014 school year.
Healthy Living brings together fun physical activities and nutrition education to help kids adopt healthy habits that can support a lifetime of good health. Nearly every school day, kids participating in the program will enjoy 30 minutes of dance, yoga, hula hoop and other pleasurable, non-competitive physical activities led by THINK Together staff. To encourage students and their families to eat more nutritiously, Healthy Living will set up its “Snack Shack” mobile kitchens at the schools to offer lessons in preparing healthy dishes at home.
“We know that eating lots of fruit and vegetables and being physically active can help prevent many of today’s lifestyle-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease,” said Sharon Dalton, vice president of the Aetna Foundation and the director of its regional grant-making program. “We are pleased to support THINK Together’s Healthy Living program and help kids in El Monte establish healthy habits at a young age, especially those who have an elevated risk of being overweight or obese.”
Anne Turner, Executive Director for THINK Together in Los Angeles said, “Kids in El Monte are at high risk of developing obesity-related diseases without concerted intervention. Our Healthy Living program has a strong track record of improving kids’ physical fitness and making fruits, vegetables and other healthful foods the cornerstone of kids’ diets. We are grateful to the support from the Aetna Foundation that will enable us to reach 800 more kids this year.”El Monte has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in Los Angeles County. About 50 percent of fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders are overweight or obese, according to a 2012 report from the Center for Public Health Advocacy and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The city of El Monte also has few public parks and open spaces, limiting children’s opportunities to play outside. While most California cities average about five acres of open space per 1,000 people, El Monte only has one-half acre of open space per 1,000 residents.