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Multigroup expo aims to teach kids healthy habits

POSTED: March 20, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Instead of telling families what they should do to lead healthier lifestyles, several groups have joined forces to provide entertaining, real-world examples.

For the inaugural "Healthy Habits: A Child and Family Wellness Expo," attendees should expect to walk away with a heaping serving of information dished out in fun-sized pieces.

"Learning doesn’t have to be boring," said Shelley Davis, who is sharing co-chairwoman duties with Mandy Bangs.

The expo will be held from 1-4 p.m. Sunday at the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, 999 Chestnut St. in Gainesville.

It is being spearheaded by the Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, United Way of Hall County and INK.

The idea for the expo grew out of a two of the league’s other projects, Kids in the Kitchen and Feeding Our Future. The group started with Kids in the Kitchen as a way to teach kids healthy recipes.

After introducing the feeding program, where the group takes food boxes to needy children in six local elementary school, the members decided to take a different approach.

"We decided the best way to reach the kids was to talk about health maintenance," Davis said.

"For the past year, we’ve focused more on health and wellness. We’ve gone into four elementary schools and we’ve reached about 500 kids.

"We would do a 20 minute program that talks about exercise, healthy eating and oral hygiene. This expo is another way for us to reach out to the community and spread our message about healthy eating and overall wellness."

There will be an outdoor obstacle course organized by the Boys & Girls Clubs, healthy lunches and family-friendly activities. A game show-style booth will teach kids how to choose the healthier food options at restaurants and school.

Dentists will be on hand sharing tips on how to care for your smile and there will be opportunities to get moving with BodyPlex and Jazzercise.

The organizers have also arranged for multiple food demonstrations that target all economic groups.

"For some of the lower income families, it’s harder for them to purchase healthy foods because they can be more expensive," Davis said.

"One of our vendors, Cooking Matters and Shopping Matters out of Atlanta will be there to show lower income families how they can buy and prepare healthy meals within their budgets."

The Junior League will also have couponing booth where attendees — both English and Spanish speakers — can learn a few tricks for shaving dollars off their grocery shopping bill.

With more than 30 different vendors, there’s bound to be something for everyone. Attendees should make sure to visit as many booths as possible, because there will be prizes awarded for the participants with the most stamps on their expo "passport."

"We’ll have things for parents, too, but this is really about the kids. A lot of them aren’t educated about what makes a healthy food choice," Davis said.

"We want them to take away ideas on how to maintain their overall health. This is just a fun and entertaining way for them to learn."


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