Healthy U is a “go” for the new school year at the West Essex Y

Parents, children and guests are welcomed to the Healthy U Hoedown theme day of activities.
Healthy food is served to parents and guests as they arrive in the morning for the Hoedown activities. Eating a healthy breakfast to start your day is key to a successful day. Simple examples like this are part of the take home education focus of Healthy U. Yogurt, granola, fruit and water was served.
Children and staff enjoy a game of Skitter Scatter. Children will run around the haystack in the middle, find a spot to stand when skitter scatter is called and then follow the directions of the coordinator. Often times, the directions will consist of imitating how an animal stands. Examples include: stand like a flamingo, or a kangaroo. Combining education with exercise 30 minutes a day is a component of the CATCH® curriculum.
After 30-minutes of exercising, children then stretch with Kids Yoga to cool down before going to their classrooms for daily learning.

The West Essex Y celebrated its 5th year of the incorporating Healthy U in its youth programs on October 10th. Festivities took place at the Peanut Shell Childcare Center  - 7 Regent Street in Livingston, New Jersey and at 15 public schools where the Y provides afterschool care programs.

“Having a Healthy U school-year kick-off event demonstrates our recommitment to Healthy U while creating an exciting program for the kids who can see how much fun healthy living can be” said Lucy Cookman, the Peanut Shell Childcare Center Director.

Healthy U is a collaborative partnership between the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey with the goal of combating childhood obesity through nutrition education, physical education and family involvement.  Healthy U teaches children ages 3 -13 years old how to be healthy for a lifetime.  It uses the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) curriculum to promote physical activity and good nutrition while showing kids that eating healthy and being physically active every day can be fun. 

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“1 in 3 children overweight or obese--these children risk developing serious health problems in adulthood.  Through the Healthy U program, we can make a positive impact on youth and their families”, said Ms. Cookman.

Healthy U has been a part of the Y after school program since 2008, and Y preschool-age programs since 2012.  This year, the West Essex Y is implementing Healthy U programming  in 15 New Jersey public schools in addition to their Peanut Shell Childcare Center.  The school-based program incorporates the Healthy U curriculum in physical education, the classroom setting, the cafeteria, and throughout the school community.  The philosophy is to promote, educate and create a culture for healthy living and help students make positive choices for physical activity and nutrition.  The program also provides support to families for making good choices and lifestyle changes.

“Healthy U is integrated into our afterschool programs daily.  Through this Horizon Foundation grant, we can provide additional, and complementary, health education while promoting a culture of wellness that can improve academic performance and increase student health.  In addition, our children learn that exercising and eating healthy is fun”,
said Cheryl Francione – Associate Executive Director at the West Essex YMCA.

Healthy U is made possible through a grant from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, a division of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. Since 2008, the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey has invested $3.45 million in the Healthy U initiative.  For more information on this program contact your local Y or Sue Cornell, Healthy U Director, NJ YMCA State Alliance at or visit 

The Y is the nation’s leading nonprofit committed to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

The YMCA column is meant to highlight special events, new programs, community collaborations and the occassional mission story.  Mission stories will involve any YMCA mission-related achievements, like member profiles.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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