Kids Get Smart on Health

Physical, expressive and powerful, traditional dance has an illustrious history in Native American culture. Long a part of the celebration of tribal life, these same dances have become the backbone of the Osage Nation Head Start youth fitness program.

Several years ago, the Indian Health Service called for education initiatives aimed at parents and preschool children to teach healthy fitness and nutrition habits.

The Osage Nation Head Start program answered that call with a greatly expanded Native American dance program and updated nutrition curriculum. A $10,000 grant from General Mills Champions for Healthy Kids — a partnership of the American Dietetic Association, The President’s Challenge and the General Mills Foundation — made the expansion possible.

Champions for Healthy Kids supports the work of innovative nutrition and fitness programs developed by schools and community groups across the country who serve children and teenagers. The program has positively impacted the health of 100,000 kids with $6 million in grants since 2002. Each year, Champions for Healthy Kids awards 50 grants of $10,000 each to local nonprofit groups that develop creative ways to help youth adopt a balanced diet and physically active lifestyle.

With the $10,000 Champions grant, the Osage Nation Head Start program built a compact disc library of Native American music to use in their expanded dance program. To complement this physical fitness component, the program worked with a nutritionist to add fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks to the children’s traditional Native American diet, which is heavy on corn and beans.

Study after study demonstrates that a child’s diet and level of activity affect his or her school performance, mental and emotional well-being and long term physical health.

“Champions for Healthy Kids grants promote the type of activities the American Dietetic Association Foundation believes holds the greatest potential to have a positive, lasting impact on young people’s nutrition and physical activity,” said Registered Dietitian Neva Cochran, Chair-elect of the American Dietetic Association Foundation.

Parents also can help instill good fitness and nutrition habits in their kids at home with these tips from the American Dietetic Association.

• Get your entire family involved. Research shows children are often more willing to eat healthy foods and be active if they see their parents and other family members doing the same.

• Set healthy, realistic goals. When changes are made step-by-step, you are more likely to succeed.

• Make the most of family mealtime. Eating meals together gives you a chance to help your child develop a healthy attitude toward food.

• Make sure your child eats a balanced, healthy diet. MyPyramid for Kids, the new food guide pyramid, provides general guidelines.

• Get active. Plan regular physical activities as a family.

Additional tips for your family can be found on the American Dietetic Association’s Web site .

If a group in your community has an idea for developing a program to improve the nutrition and fitness of local kids, General Mills Champions for Healthy Kids wants to hear from you. Fifty grants of $10,000 will be awarded to groups with the most innovative ideas. Grant applications are now being accepted online at

All materials courtesy of General Mills Inc.


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