"We are at a juncture where we need to empower children to learn what healthy foods are and are not, and to help them become their own best advocates when asking for and receiving meals."
By Natalie Villacorta Contributing Writer
Joy Feldman is a nutritional consultant, president of JHF Nutritional Consulting and founder/executive director of the new nonprofit, The Picture of Children’s Health. Feldman is also the author of two books, “Joyful Cooking in the Pursuit of Good Health” and “Is Your Hair Made of Donuts?” In March of 2013, she organized and planned an enormous statewide event where over 75,000 students at more than 200 schools, libraries, youth programs and health centers throughout the state of Rhode Island participated in an All State Event – An Act of Solidarity for Children's Health. As a result of this initiative, she caught the attention of the Rhode Island General Assembly where she was awarded a Congratulatory Resolution for her outstanding efforts and support in promoting healthy eating and nutrition choices for children during National Nutrition Month.
PBN: What is the Picture of Children's Health?
FELDMAN: The Picture of Children's Health was born from a bold and creative campaign to educate children on the importance of healthy eating. We also strive to motivate children to celebrate health and advocate for childhood wellbeing. As part of a statewide reading initiative the campaign features my book “Is Your Hair Made of Donuts?” which incorporates a free interdisciplinary nutritional curriculum. This book illuminates the adage “you are what you eat” in a simple, child-friendly way. Through our efforts, with the cooperation of over 200 schools and organizations, one governor, eight mayors, and one donut, 75,000 children have been impacted . Our goal is to build this initiative region by region and take it to the nation. The Picture of Children’s Health mission is to educate and empower children to make lifelong healthy lifestyle choices and to achieve optimal health. Through our three tiered approach - empowering children, promoting education and creating solutions, we contribute and impact the education, empowerment and optimization of children’s health.
PBN: What is the state of children's health in the U.S./Rhode Island? Why start this organization?
FELDMAN: We are at a juncture where we need to empower children to learn what healthy foods are and are not, and to help them become their own best advocates when asking for and receiving meals. The perilous effects of obesity and poor health will continue to plague our children if we do not muster up the courage to stand for change. According to the Former Surgeon General, Richard Carmona, “For the first time in recorded history, today’s children may die at a younger age than their parents.” Causes are attributed to increasing rates of: obesity, and the effects of obesity such as, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The childhood obesity rate has more than doubled since 1980, and the number of children considered obese has shot past 12 million, according to the American Heart Association. Obesity is now considered a national epidemic, spurring a cocktail of kindred ailments: coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancers, hypertension, dyslipidemia, stroke, liver disease, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and gynecological problems. Additionally, children today have more allergies, asthma, developmental issues, infections, digestive ailments and general poor health than in previous decades. And in Rhode Island, more than 25 percent of the children are overweight or obese, according to Care New England. Although improvements have been shown in this area, there is still a significant amount of work that needs to be done to improve children’s well being.
PBN: What have you accomplished so far? Tells us about some of the programming.
FELDMAN: At the present time, we offer programming in the area of Educational Healthy School Visits. We engage children with not just a book, but an event – a magical donut hat, nutrition jeopardy, and a yum and yuck taste test contest after making fresh carrot juice – this brings the kids in. The bottom line is that kids want entertainment. With the state of the world as it is right now – because of bullying especially – kids need to be able to stand up for themselves and know what they believe in. Eating healthy is not a thrilling subject, but add that energy and zip into the presentation along with the book and they can become hooked on health the same way as they’re hooked on sugar.
PBN: What is Eat Healthy RI? Who is involved?
FELDMAN: Eat Healthy RI is a statewide event, sponsored by The Picture of Children’s Health (TPOCH), that will be held on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The specific objectives of the event are to educate children on the importance of healthy eating, motivate children to celebrate their health, and develop a new culture that supports wellness. Eat Healthy RI will demonstrate a collective act of community solidarity by advocating for optimal health on behalf of our young people. The campaign is seeking the support of all educational institutions, nonprofits, businesses, libraries, community-based organizations (CBOs), and community health centers as starting places to develop children’s nutritional knowledge. Specifically, Eat Healthy RI: An Act of Solidarity for Children’s Health has more than 250 schools/CBOs and businesses already committed for 2014’s event, with more signing on each day.
PBN: What is your book about?
FELDMAN: “Is Your Hair Made of Donuts?” is no ordinary adventure. Adoringly absurd, and filled with laugh-out-loud appeal, this picture book focuses on two siblings, Matthew and Madison Blossom, who do not consume junk food – no sugar, no processed foods and no chemical additives. Their mom does not allow them to eat donuts, candy, chocolate, fast food, soda, chewing gum, brightly colored drinks or juices, puddings, neon green, blue or hot pink foods that were created to last forever. The Blossom children unexpectedly head into an amusing, educational and delicious journey towards healthy choices where they learn that “they are what they eat.” The book empowers young people to take control of their diet and health with each delicious bite of knowledge found in this magical journey. Make sure to check your hair for “rainbow colored sprinkles or are they sparkles,” when you finish reading this scrumptious adventure.
PBN: What are some simple ways that young people can improve their health? What are the ABC's of health?
FELDMAN: Here are some simple solutions:
1. Explain and teach children why nutrition matters.
2. Drink lots of fresh water each day.
3. Add a 4 ounce serving of fresh carrot juice to your morning breakfast.
4. Avoid buying candy, cookies and other sugary products. Stock the fridge with delicious vegetables and dips.
5. Limit how long a child sits in front of the TV and encourage them to go outside and play.