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Blue Ribbon Foundation Grants Help More Than 700 Local Residents Eat Healthy

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September 15, 2010

Nutrition grants reflect BCNEPA’s ongoing commitment to combat obesity

September 15, 2010, Wilkes-Barre, PA –The Blue Ribbon Foundation of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is highlighting six area agencies that are using Foundation funds to help local residents understand the importance of nutrition to their overall health.  The grants totaling more than $55,000 address an important challenge: the rapid rise in childhood and adult obesity.  Being overweight or obese is associated with significantly worse health outcomes and places a high financial burden on individuals, employers and the health system as a whole. 

Educating individuals and families about healthy eating habits is important because a child’s dietary and health habits form at a young age, often prior to entering elementary school, according to a study published in the Journal of the College of American Nutrition.  

“Healthy eating is an important step to a healthy lifestyle at any age,” said Cynthia A. Yevich, executive director of The Blue Ribbon Foundation.  “Lower-income individuals and families with young children often find it particularly challenging to shop and eat healthily, so we’re pleased to be able to support nutrition education programs specifically for these populations.”  

A nutritious and healthy diet should include foods from the major food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy products, lean protein sources, nuts and seeds.  Eating the right foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, can also help prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic.

September, which is nationally recognized as Healthy Fruits and Veggies – More Matters Month, is the perfect time to remind parents about the importance of a healthy diet.

“The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services recommend that children eat 1-3 cups of vegetables and 1-2 cups of fruits each day, depending on their age,” said Thomas Curry, M.D., medical director for BCNEPA and a pediatrician.  “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends serving fruits and vegetables with every meal and encourages parents to be good role models by eating fruits and vegetables themselves.”

The grants were awarded to:

  • The United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties, which received a $5,500 grant for the Success By 6 (SB6) Nutrition Education Program.  SB6 will use Foundation funds to partner with 12 Pre-K Counts classrooms across Lackawanna County to provide nutrition education for at-risk youngsters, ages 3 to 5, and their families. At least 247 children will receive age-appropriate information, with 100 parents and caregivers also receiving training on preparing healthy and affordable meals, identifying healthy snacks, portion control and reading nutrition labels.

  • United Neighborhood Centers, Inc., which used $6,600 in Foundation funding to expand its ropes course into a comprehensive healthy lifestyles program for 45 youth, ages 13 to 18, in Lackawanna County. The program uses structured physical activity, nutrition education and exercises in problem-solving to help these teens develop and maintain healthy behaviors.

  • The Scranton Counseling Center, which used a $10,000 Foundation grant to add a nutrition and physical education component to its summer program for low-income youth with emotional, behavioral and/or social problems. The S.W.E.A.T. (Summer Wellness Education, Activities and Therapeutic) Program provided daily physical activity and weekly nutrition education sessions to 100 at-risk children for eight weeks this past summer.

  • The Pocono Family YMCA, which received a $16,500 grant to add the CATCH (Coordinated Approach To Child Health) curriculum to its existing after-school program. CATCH will ensure that at least 180 minutes of weekly physical activity and nutrition education are provided to 120 low-income or physically at-risk children this year.

  • The Wayne County YMCA, which will team with other community health partners to offer the “Fit and Functional” program to 60 low-income, physically at-risk adults and seniors in Wayne County. Using a $7,700 Foundation grant, the program integrates nutrition education and physical activity to teach these individuals how to incorporate healthy behaviors into their daily routines.

  • The Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA, which will use $8,750 in Foundation funds to add the CATCH (Coordinated Approach To Child Health) curriculum to its existing after-school program. CATCH will ensure that at least 45 minutes of daily physical activity plus nutrition education are provided to 30 low-income or physically at-risk children this year.  The YMCA will also provide bi-monthly healthy lifestyle education sessions for the parents and caregivers of these children.

Grants Reflect BCNEPA Commitment to Combating Obesity

The Blue Ribbon Foundation and Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA) are taking leadership roles in combating childhood obesity locally.  BCNEPA is northeastern and north central Pennsylvania’s matching grant funder for the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Active Schools program, which is designed to get students involved in a structured daily physical activity program. This year, eight elementary schools within BCNEPA’s 13-county service area have been selected to receive Active Schools grants.  More than 3,500 K-6 children will participate.

Plus, BCNEPA has recently provided area pediatricians with the Good Health Club Physician Toolkit, which is designed to encourage pediatric practices to proactively address weight issues with parents and children.  These weight issues, if left unchecked, could result in significant long-term medical conditions. 

Find out More

The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s funding cycles run quarterly. For more information on funding priorities, application deadlines and eligibility criteria, please visit www.bcnepa.com, and click on The Blue Ribbon Foundation tab.

About Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania

Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association headquartered in Wilkes-Barre. It offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to approximately 600,000 individuals in 13 counties in Northeastern and North Central Pennsylvania. 

The company’s mission is to provide innovative solutions that support more affordable health care, promote personal accountability for health and wellness, and offer superior service and partnership to employers, members, and providers.

Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania established its private, non-profit Blue Ribbon Foundation in 2002 to invest in health education and prevention initiatives that produce measurable health improvements and help manage long term health costs for the residents of Northeastern and North Central Pennsylvania.

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Anthony Matrisciano
570-200-6310

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