New Haven summit focuses on nutrition, health, exercise

Once again New Haven School Food is leading the way with ending childhood obesity and hunger!
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
By Abbe Smith, Register Staff / Twitter: @abbegsmith

NEW HAVEN — More than 40 people came out for a Healthy Kids Summit Tuesday to hear a panel of nutrition experts talk about the childhood obesity epidemic and the need to promote healthful eating habits.

The summit, held at the Stop & Shop Supermarket on Whalley Avenue, drew local parents, educators and passers-by with shopping cart in hand. The conversation ranged from combating obesity in children, getting kids to eat low-fat, low-sugar nutritious foods, and promoting healthful lifestyles that include smart food choices and physical exercise.

“Food is a fifty-percent solution. Physical activity is the other fifty percent. And we cannot solve this problem without addressing physical activity,” said Keith Ayoob, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and director of the nutrition clinic at the Rose F. Kennedy Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center.

Also included on the panel were New Haven Schools Food Services Director Tim Cipriano; Marlene Schwartz, deputy director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy at Yale University; and Mary Savoye-Desanti, associate director of Pediatric Obesity and the Bright Bodies Program at Yale School of Medicine. The discussion was led by Arlene Putterman, manager of public and community relations at Stop & Shop’s New York Metro division.

The panelists said the best way to combat childhood obesity is by promoting healthful lifestyle choices over diets, which often don’t last.

She said the Bright Bodies Program focuses on getting kids to eat nutrient-dense foods, instead of adhering to a strict diet. Schwartz added a good place to start for healthier eating is to eliminate sugary drinks, such as soda, a point with which everyone on the panel agreed.

Cipriano said one of the big challenges for schools is to address both childhood obesity and childhood hunger, which he said go hand in hand.

“One in four kids in New Haven lack access to nutritious food every day,” he said, adding his mission is to give kids healthful, good-tasting food when they are in school. On Tuesday that translated to oven-roasted chicken, collard greens, an apple and milk.

Makia Richardson, a city mother with three children, stood in the back of the audience with her 9-month-old daughter and her shopping cart. She said she learned some important things from the discussion and planned to take a closer look at the fruit juice she gives to her children.

“I’m trying to work on eating healthier,” she said.

Richardson was invited to the event by Lensky Gay, who runs the family resource center at her other daughter’s school, Brennan-Rogers. Gay encouraged parents to come out for the event to learn something about nutritious food choices.

Natasha Horn, a community health adviser with the New Haven Mental Health Outreach for Mothers, or MOMS partnership, praised the event for sparking a dialogue between panelists and audience members. She said she wished more mothers would have come out.

“These are the kinds of programs that need to be available to raise awareness about making dietary changes for children,” she said.