In an effort to reduce childhood obesity, the second annual Healthy Kids Festival is Sept. 28 at Paradise Park to teach families how to be healthy and active.
The free festival is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the park, 4775 McLeod Drive. According to Anne Lindsay, specialist in health and nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, the purpose is to raise awareness during Childhood Obesity Month and to get kids excited about their health.
“Our goal is to teach kids how to eat healthy and stay active no matter what size or shape they are,” she said. “This is supposed to be a very educating and interactive experience.”
According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, 36.8 percent of children are overweight or obese in Nevada.
Over a quarter of Nevada’s population is considered obese at 26.7 percent. In Nevada, obesity affects roughly 60 percent of adults and 20 percent of children. The department describes someone who is overweight as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9, whereas someone who is obese has a BMI of 30 or more.
Across the nation, childhood obesity affects about 17 percent of the population.
“The childhood obesity rates have gone down just slightly nationally for the first time in years, but this still continues to be a major concern,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay, along with Lisa Coker, co-director of the festival, started the event as an extension of the All 4 Kids health and nutrition program at the extension. The program was created out of concern for the dramatic increase in childhood obesity.
According to its website, www.unce.unr.edu/programs/health, a person’s relationship with food and physical activity begins in infancy and is molded during childhood. Children who took part in the All 4 Kids program showed an 83 to 92 percent increase of fresh fruit intake.
Lindsay hopes that the Healthy Kids Festival will show similar results for those who attend.
“It’s been a vision of mine for the past four years to start this festival,” she said. “We wanted to reach low-income families and engage both children and parents towards a healthier lifestyle.”
The fair will focus on ways that children can become healthy through interactive activities and diets. It also is set to feature local musicians and dance instructors teaching children Zumba, hip-hop, country and salsa.
Nichol Tullis, a community-based instructor at the extension, will be at the festival showing kids how to have fun while staying active.
“We want children to learn healthy habits at a young age and find ways to carry those habits to adulthood,” Tullis said.
In addition, children can also look forward to free trial classes, meeting fitness advocates and the opportunity to sign up for sport leagues and fitness activities, such as cheerleading, boot camp, basketball, tennis, soccer, martial arts and swimming.
Food growers and gardening experts will provide instructions on how to create vegetable gardens and plant fruits, while local chefs will teach families how to cook healthful foods.
Chefs from casinos are also expected to provide different fruit and vegetable samples so that kids can try something new.
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said she is looking forward to attending the festival.
“We need to get the message out that you cannot fight childhood obesity alone,” she said. “Families need to come together and change their diets. This festival will guide families to make those (valuable) life changes.”
Lindsay said booths are expected to have a bilingual presence for Latino families, who are at greater risk for becoming obese. In Clark County, approximately 30 percent of the population is Latino, according to the 2010 Census.
“Obesity rates are the highest among Hispanic children, particularly Hispanic boys,” Lindsay said. “We plan to provide information for kids in English and have Spanish speakers available for parents.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mexican Americans have an obesity rate of 40 percent compared with all Hispanics, who have an obesity rate of 39 percent.
Lindsay said that last year about 1,200 people attended the festival, and this year she expects more than 2,000.
“If the kids are excited and motivated about living a better lifestyle, than it will be easier for parents to build healthy families,” she said. “That’s what we are trying to do with this festival.”
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter Sandy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686.