Teaching kids to make healthier food choices

Published July 14, 2016

It’s amazing to consider how many decisions we make every day. From deciding how to brew our morning cup of coffee to planning a lunch outing with our co-workers, all of these choices add up to make a big difference in how we structure our day. When things get busy with work and family, it is easy to go for the quick and convenient when it comes to preparing our meals. These selections, while efficient, may not always be the best option for our overall health and wellness. When we take a step back to consider what we put in our mouths each day, we are taking the first step towards better nutrition. 

The 36 Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are united in a collective mission to empower and invest in communities to help people learn to make healthier choices about food. Initiatives range from providing families with educational programming to improving access to the healthy food Americans need most to power them through each day.

In Arizona, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) recognizes that inspiring a culture of health and wellness for young girls is an important part of building a healthy state. Through its Nourishing Arizona initiative, BCBSAZ began collaborating with the Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-Pine Council to launch the “All About Healthy Living” patch. This special patch is designed to empower girls to connect and take action while setting a solid foundation for years to come by teaching the five important aspects of wellness, including fitness, community, friendship, future and general health. This one-of-a-kind program is the most comprehensive, community-centric patch a Girl Scout can earn and is available to all local Girl Scouts — from Daisies to Ambassadors.

In Western New York, childhood obesity rates are 12 percent higher than the national average and climbing. In an effort to curb this trend, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York (BCBSWNY) introduced the Healthy Zone Program, a curriculum-based program that gives teachers resources to incorporate fun, interactive ways to learn and share healthy habits into their lesson plans. Among the resources is the Healthy Zone Activity Kit, an interactive kit filled with healthy lifestyle-inspired tools—from nutrition charts to fitness dice, jump ropes and super-sized teeth for brushing—as examples of healthy living the children incorporate into their family routines. In addition, five students from each of the 36 schools participated in the Healthy Zone Game Show, a 30-minute interactive trivia show, in front of an audience of their peers. The show offers an engaging and informative way for students to square-up to test their health and wellness knowledge and discover that staying healthy can be fun.

In Mississippi, the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is working to build a healthy state by providing targeted funding throughout the area to promote change for the better. Annually, the Foundation identifies and rewards public K-12 schools that have made the most strides in creating healthy school environments and cultures with the Healthy School Awards Program. The goal of these awards is to motivate schools as they work to implement and maintain health policies and programs that promote healthy eating, exercise, staff wellness and tobacco-free lifestyles among students and staff with parental and community involvement. Whether it’s promoting hands-on learning through caring for the school’s garden or teaching students how to prepare healthy snacks using fresh produce from the garden to take home and share with their families, each individual represents a step towards developing a healthy school culture. Once schools are sorted into three categories based on the size of their student population, one school from each category is recognized for its inspiring work and receives a $25,000 grant from the BCBSMS Foundation to further the school’s health and wellness efforts. One school overall is named the “Healthiest School in Mississippi” and is awarded a grant of $50,000 from the BCBSMS Foundation for their exemplary efforts to put community health and wellness first.

To learn more about these programs and other ways Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are making a difference in their local communities, download the full Investing in America’s Health report.