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In 2007, Holy Cross Hospital's Community Outreach Department, with the support of a grant from the Health Foundation of South Florida, launched the Growing Healthy Kids program in five lower income parochial elementary schools. The goal of the program was to improve nutrition and physical activity with kindergarten through eighth grade students utilizing traditional classroom and experiential learning techniques, such as onsite school vegetable gardens.
The Growing Healthy Kids program has increased knowledge, attitudes and skills regarding good nutrition and health in students in grades K-8. Many creative and dynamic activities, classes and workshops have been specifically designed for teachers, students and parents. Without question, the most popular activity has been the planting and maintenance of school-based edible vegetable gardens.
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946. During school years 2008-2012, Growing Healthy Kids has been responsible for bringing the NSLP to more than 10 parochial elementary schools. Each year, thousands of meals have been provided to lower income families for free or at reduced rates through this vital program.
Addressing its students’ physical health needs, the Growing Healthy Kids program has sponsored fitness video contests engaging individual students, families and classes to submit video entries. Results have included behavioral changes that will last lifetimes! In addition, the program has implemented a Pilates Program for middle school girls. The Pilates Program has resulted in marked improvements in Body Mass Index (BMI), decreased body fat and heightened knowledge and attitude towards personal health and wellness. In 2012, Growing Healthy Kids submitted a video to First Lady Michelle Obama's "Communities on the Move Video Challenge."
Pilates for Growing Healthy Kids and Pilates Day
Holy Cross Hospital has partnered with Broward Virtual Schools (BVS) to present Pilates for Growing Healthy Kids live broadcast series to elementary schools across Broward County. Schools now have the opportunity to experience Pilates at their school sites through live interactive four-week sessions via distance learning. The program was launched in the Coconut Creek, Dillard and Nova Innovation Zone schools. The four-week series is instructed by Holy Cross Associate Cathy Whitt (Community Outreach department), a certified Pilates instructor and wellness specialist. “Holy Cross Hospital is thrilled to have the opportunity to launch Live Pilates for Growing Healthy Kids as a pilot program through BVS. It is our hope to expand our reach to include and teach all elementary students in Broward County a discipline that will foster love of movement, core strength, flexibility and focused breathing. From April-May 2015, Cathy has already taught 1,600 students. All students should have the ability to learn skills that promote lifelong wellness,” said Cathy. This partnership has also made way for a resolution from the School Board of Broward County in 2015, proclaiming May 1st as Pilates Day in Broward County Schools.