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Childhood obesity: It’s in the news, in the supermarkets and on the couches of America’s homes. And some kids are just sick of unhealthy habits. Kids like Liz French.
French, a senior at Flowery Branch High School, decided to take matters into her own hands with an after-school program aimed at middle school girls.
The Bee Healthy Club, French said, is a partnership between 4-H, Girl Scouts and the C.W. Davis Middle School that promotes healthy living. Open to about 15 students, the goals of the club are to introduce young girls to better nutritional habits while providing fun and interesting physical activities.
"The club was created to address short-term issues of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity that may result in nutritional deficiencies, obesity among youth and long-term issues of chronic disease among adults," French said.
The program got its start after French’s Girl Scout troop held a Bee Healthy fair for community kids. The fair was part of the troop’s Silver Award project.
"We planned (the fair) after reading an article about the rising rates of childhood obesity," French said.
"We invited many different vendors to display information about healthy lifestyles to the children who visited the fair."
Meetings and activities begin immediately after school on Mondays, she said. The first meeting of each month is held at C.W. Davis Middle School. There, the group plans field trips where the girls can participate in fun, instructional activities such as swimming, gymnastics, dancing, and hiking.
French notes the club also offers opportunities for leadership and for girls to provide input into future club activities and projects.
The club travels to places like Dojo American Karate Center for lessons in self-defense and Brenau University to get some pointers from the Lady Tigers swim team coach. A trip to Whole Foods taught the students a little about making good nutritional choices, and afterward, the girls got together to turn their purchases into healthy entrees and desserts.
"All of the students in the program have really enjoyed having the opportunity to learn about eating healthy foods and fun ways to exercise," French said.
But French will graduate next month, leaving the club in search of a new leader. She hopes a younger student will step up to carry on the program.
In the future, French hopes there will be opportunities for other community groups to participate. She also would like to see the club start a school sports program for students who may not feel they can "make the cut" on traditional sports teams.
As for French, she plans on continuing her education in health at North Georgia College & State University and fight the obesity epidemic.
"I hope that from participating in the program, the girls will be able to make healthier decisions in everyday life."