Recognizing that everyone has a role to play in solving the obesity crisis, the West Chicago Public Library District has taken the problem head-on, designing programs and events over the last year to engage the community in addressing childhood obesity.
Beginning in early 2012, a “Cooking Around the World” series focused on fresh, healthy food choices and provided recipes and ideas promoting more healthful diets. As a partner in the Illinois Library Association’s IRead program over the summer, the Library used the program theme’s tag line, “Eat~Move~Read,” to connect patrons to programs and activities designed to encourage healthy eating and lifestyle choices.
In addition to the Cooking series, weekly Library Lawn Parties featured outdoor game favorites like badminton, encouraging families to “get moving” together. Children’s programs like the “Books for Breakfast” storytime provided healthy snacks for little ones, while “Bend It, Stretch It” encouraged parents and caregivers to share some physical activity with their toddlers. A teen Olympics competition provided fun, physical challenges for Library teen patrons, while participation in the West Chicago Community Garden project introduced teens to the concept of growing fresh, healthy foods themselves. Most popular was a visit from the “Amazing Matt Wilhelm,” who demonstrated some of the tricks that made him a BMX World Champion while educating kids and families of the importance of bicycle safety and leading a healthy lifestyle.
Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled. The numbers are especially high here in West Chicago which, as part of the YMCAs Northwest Region, reports nearly 35% of children are overweight or obese and 19% are obese. If we don’t solve this problem, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others may face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.
“Our Summer Reading Program events were specifically designed to encourage patrons to make healthy choices and increase physical activity,” says Administrative Librarian Melody E. Coleman. “I was so excited about the ‘Eat~Move~Read’ theme because it so closely related to the White House’s comprehensive ‘Let’s Move’ program dedicated to solving the problem of childhood obesity in a generation,” she added.
According to a recent report by the FORWARD initiative (Fighting Obesity Reaching healthy Weight Among Residents of DuPage), one in three children in DuPage County are overweight or obese. The YMCA of Northwestern Dupage County emphasizes that “our community environments need to reinforce health and well-being for families and individuals.”
The West Chicago Public Library District plans to continue to focus on healthy food choices and physical activity in its programming with a shared goal of promoting healthy self-esteem and body image for children. “We take our role as a community leader very seriously in this effort to combat obesity and chronic disease, curb health care costs, and build healthy communities,” said Coleman, “and we welcome the opportunity to engage the community to work together to help our youth build fit bodies and strong minds.”
- Shelley Campbell, Public Relations Specialist
- West Chicago Public Library District
- Phone: (630) 231-1552, ext. 128
- FAX: (630) 231-1709
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