Bronx Charter School Pioneers a Healthy Eating Initiative

By Rob Callaghan

The Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School (BAOP) is tackling the issue of childhood obesity head-on with an innovative new program developed by Bronx Health REACH. The program brings together teachers, students, and their caregivers to help kids and their families stay healthy.

Bronx Health REACH is part of a national childhood obesity prevention effort funded by Johnson & Johnson/John Hopkins Community Health Care Scholars Program to provide children with nutrition education. The UFT’s Safety & Health Department was instrumental in bringing the program to two third-grade classrooms at BAOP. The course helped children improve their food choices and begin to set personal goals to help maintain healthy eating habits. The class was offered twice a week for 45 minutes.

The program also encouraged parents and caregivers to participate in after-school workshops to reinforce the lessons the students learned around healthy eating. These workshops educated parents and caregivers on the importance of home cooked meals, the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables, and the need for physical activity. Each class encouraged caregivers to set weekly goals to improve their own health.

As part of the program, Bronx Health REACH will evaluate its effect on children’s eating habits, but teachers already know it has had a positive effect on their students. “The kids were really motivated and learned a lot. They always asked ‘when is she (the teacher from Bronx Health REACH) coming back?” said to third-grade teacher Kristin Crocitto.

Anita Iezza, who also took part in the program, found that her students were engaged; she told the story of her third-grade student who confronted his mother about the family’s choice of cereal bar – “This one has too much sugar and not enough fiber.”

Over the next two years, the program hopes to expand to reach 600 students in elementary schools across the South Bronx. Both teachers at Bronx Academy of Promise (BAOP) say they would love to have the program back at their school.