Low income family fitness and nutrition program in jeopardy


by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 HealthLink

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Posted on February 12, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Updated Saturday, Feb 12 at 12:31 PM

SEATTLE - Every week, a group of parents and preschoolers turns a quiet Beacon Hill yoga studio into a calorie busting dance fest.

With shouts of "Arriba, abajo," family services staffer Rosa Hernandez leads the circle dance. The fitness group was her brainchild.

"We have fun. That's it," she said, explaining the appeal to the families.

Hernandez works with Latino families at Denise Louie Education Center, a local Head Start program just down the street from the yoga studio. Even as young as age three some of the attending preschoolers struggle with obesity. It's why Hernandez came up with the idea of the fitness group.

"It's something that we need in our school, in my community especially. Because we have a lot of children who are overweight, and also us, we are big," she said.
Up the street, at the Denise Louie Education Center, preschool teacher Sheri Maxwell was in the middle of a nutrition lesson, geared to the taste buds of the very young.

"Here's orange, here's carrot, and here's apple," she called out the ingredients to her young charges. 
On the menu today is an orange, carrot, and apple juice blend that's an unfamiliar treat to some of these children.

"They're able to go home, and they're educating their families about healthy eating and making good choices," Maxwell said.

The program, which is getting kids off to such a healthy start is in jeopardy, said Executive Director Janice Deguchi. She said federal budget cuts due in March are expected to be painful.

"We have the potential of losing about a third or more of our budget. So we serve about 300 children a year. So that's 100 fewer children that we're going to be able to serve," Deguchi said.

Along with the movement class and nutrition lessons the children at the Head Start center are  monitored for medical and dental health. If budget cuts go through, low income families will face doing it all on their own. But Rosa Hernandez had a prediction, that's also a reason, she said, to keep the program going.

"Because sometimes when you are alone, you don't want to do this. But in a group, we can do better," she said.

The local Head Start program receives some state funds along with United Way and private funding. It has been a resource for families in our area for the over thirty years.