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(Corrected, Nov. 7, 2:20 p.m.)
The Picture of Children’s Health is a place that is full of joy – as in Joy Feldman, founder and executive director of the new East Greenwich nonprofit that has set its sights on educating and empowering children to make lifelong healthy-lifestyle choices and achieve optimal health.
The organization was born from a bold and creative campaign to educate children on the importance of healthy eating; to motivate children to celebrate health and advocate for childhood well-being. With the cooperation of more than 200 schools and organizations, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and eight mayors, Feldman says 75,000 children have been impacted and her goal is to build the initiative region by region and take it national.
With a current budget of $50,000, the nonprofit is hoping to re-educate children on the guidelines of optimal nutrition in a fun and innovative way. In doing so, Feldman hopes to arm children with tools and inspiration they can carry with them into adulthood.
“It is never too early to teach healthy lifestyle and eating choices,” said Feldman, who has spread her message to schools around the country. “We need to effect a change in the culture.”
Feldman’s passion comes in great part from a health struggle she faced after the birth of her first child 22 years ago.
“My illness started subtly; I began to tire easily,” Feldman said. “I experienced an onset of joint pain as the stiffness eventually affected my entire body.”
Following many rounds of testing, Feldman was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Unable to function and care for her infant, she began to search for ways to improve her health.
After becoming connected with a doctor who worked in the field of nutrition, Feldman started a new diet, introducing nutritional changes, lifestyle medications and meditation. Each suggestion, she says, dramatically influenced the state of her health for the better.
Aware that there were countless people suffering as she had, Feldman decided to write a book, “Is Your Hair Made of Donuts?”, as a means to share the simple, yet highly effective program that restored her energy and good health.
Feldman says the genesis of the book was born from an early morning airport experience.
“While waiting to board the airplane with my family, I observed young people eating donuts,” she recalled. “Moments later, they were crying and complaining of headaches and bellyaches. I knew from personal experience that the hair reflects the health of the body, and suddenly, I thought of the title of the book … a silly and fun way to teach kids that ‘they are what they eat.’ ”
Not unlike many nonprofits – not to mention such a new one – raising money is a top priority and challenge for The Picture of Children’s Health. She’s the lone staffer and relies on volunteer help.
“Funding for us is very tight and donations are needed so we can bring our vision to scale,” Feldman said. The organization currently has one seed sponsor, Acopia Harvest International, which creates sustainable hydroponic nutritional growing systems.
Feldman is hard at work on Eat Healthy RI: An Act of Solidarity for Children Health, a statewide event taking place next March. Sponsored by the nonprofit, which is partnering with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, the event’s goal is to educate children on the importance of healthy eating, and developing a new culture that supports wellness. •