June 14, 2006

Girl Scouts Fighting Fat

Knowing that teaching children at an early age how to eat right and exercise can make a difference, the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County have kicked off a new initiative that aims to fight obesity.

"You can never start too early to educate children on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle," said Yvonne Grant, executive director of the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County. "The actions they take today will literally and figuratively shape the people they become in the future. We want to ensure that they become healthy adults by making sure they are healthy children."

The new pilot program, which was supported by members of the Suffolk County legislature at a press conference in Hauppauge last week, will include a number of programs that intend to help curtail statistics that indicate that 16 of every 100 females and 17 out of every 100 males are overweight.

The first of those programs kicked off last Saturday at a Health and Family Expo at the Sheraton Long Island in Hauppauge. The event that featured exercise guru John Basedow of Fitness Made Simple, health professionals who conducted free blood pressure and diabetes screenings, and over 40 exhibitors. Attendees met with nutritionists to learn about proper eating habits.

But that is just the beginning, said Grant, who explained that fitness, exercise, and healthy eating will be stressed in all facets of Girl Scouting, from summer camp to troop activities to the council's annual cookie campaign that will help support the new health initiative.

For example, Grant pointed out that scouts will be encouraged to walk to sell cookies, which will all be trans-fat free by the next cookie campaign in January. Right now, eight of the Girl Scout cookie varieties have no trans-fat.

"Don't not eat Girl Scout cookies," said Grant, adding, "If you want to eat an extra cookie, just schedule time to do an extra five minutes in your fitness routine."

Girl Scout Camp, which runs from June 26 to August 19 this summer, will incorporate many aspects of the new initiative, including healthy activities and snacks. "More emphasis will be placed on physical activities," Grant said, including traditional scout activities such as hiking.

In September, the council will roll out a healthy troop activity plan that Grant says scouts and troop leaders alike are looking forward to. Once troop leader, said Grant, called the council to say that she plans to get in shape over the summer as an example to the scouts in her troop.

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