Stamford Health's KIDS’ FANS (Fitness and Nutrition Services) program promotes childhood wellness, obesity prevention and physical activity using a hands-on curriculum which is designed to make learning about healthy eating and regular exercise engaging and interactive for children ages pre-K to high school. The program encourages empowerment and teaches age-appropriate tools and skills to help kids best navigate their food environment.
Increased Growth And Awareness
KIDS’ FANS has been proven to increase children’s awareness of healthy foods and positively influence their dietary behaviors. The program has significantly grown since its inception in 2009 and has expanded its reach in the last four years from about thirteen participating sites and 300 children enrolled to approximately 35 sites and over 2,200 children estimated for the 2017-2018 school year. This initiative includes a community-wide nutrition program now being taught in schools from pre-K to high school, as well as in summer camps, after-school programs and health fairs. KIDS’ FANS recently started its third year teaching nutrition education to 3rd graders enrolled in Stamford’s public elementary schools as part of their health curriculum.
Under the leadership of Ilaria St. Florian, MS, RD, the curriculum was updated in 2015 to include more nutritional themes, interactive activities and practical tips for kids.
In 2015, KIDS FANS’ teamed up with the Family Center’s School Based Health Clinics (SBHC) at Cloonan Middle School, Westhill High School and Stamford High School to provide one-on-one nutrition counseling to students referred from the clinic’s Nurse Practitioner or Social Worker or as requested by the students themselves. This program continues to run successfully throughout the 2017-2018 academic year.
As children develop their food preferences in infancy, KIDS’ FANS partnered with Chelsea Piers Kids and Children’s Learning Centers (CLC), the largest childcare provider in Fairfield County, to teach nutrition education to pre-K students (ages 3–5) as well as provide nutrition classes to parents to promote a healthy home environment.
In March 2016 and 2017, KIDS’ FANS, along with the Stamford Obesity Task Force, since renamed Stamford Children’s Health Collaborative, spearheaded a city-wide nutrition awareness initiative for March National Nutrition Month. The initiative included a kick-off proclamation at City Hall courtesy of the Mayor’s office, followed by a variety of free nutrition and physical activity classes and events for children and their families throughout the month to increase awareness and mindfulness about healthy eating and staying active.
KIDS’ FANS is an active member and participant of the Stamford Children’s Health Collaborative, comprised of community members who meet quarterly to discuss ways to link resources and provide programming to parents and children in Stamford with the goal of increasing access to and awareness of nutrition and physical activity for overall wellness and obesity prevention.
KIDS’ FANS collaborates regularly with Stamford’s urban, organic and community-based Fairgate Farm. During the Summer of 2016 and 2017, KIDS’ FANS taught the children’s nutrition component of Fairgate Farm’s annual Strawberry Jam Festival, encouraging farm-to-table eating and improving access to affordable, whole foods.
After School and Off-Season
During the Summer of 2016 and 2017, KIDS’ FANS teamed up with Chelsea Piers Sports Leadership Camp to provide sports nutrition education to young teenage athletes participating in a variety of team sports (ice hockey, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball). In addition, KIDS’ FANS participated in CP’s 90-Day Fitness Challenge to develop and present nutrition curriculum used in combination with their existing sports programs to help young athletes improve their performance via nutrition and provide tips for weight management and S.M.A.R.T. goal setting.
During 2016-2017, KIDS’ FANS provided sports nutrition to SONO Ice teams, Oilers and Barons, both elite ice hockey players in Norwalk, CT, ranging in age from 15 to early 20s. The goal being to educate players about the role of nutrition in sports performance as well as provide menu ideas to revamp their ice rink in-house restaurant and snack-bar by providing “athlete friendly” snacks and meals.
To reach kids during the off-season, KIDS’ FANS participated in four summer camps in 2015 which since grew to six camps during the Summer of 2016 and 2017. Over 600 children received KIDS’ FANS classes at the following sites: YMCA, Stamford Recreation Camps, Boys & Girls Club, Yerwood Center, Chelsea Piers Leadership Academy Camp.
KIDS’ FANS continues to teach after school programs. Some of these sites also include a cooking component to expose kids to new and unfamiliar foods as well as teach kids how to prepare simple but also healthy and affordable meals. After-school sites include: YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, FISH, JCC, K.T. Murphy, Trailblazers, Yerwood Center, Strawberry Hill School, Chester Addison Community Center as well as Roton Middle School, Ponus Ridge Middle School, Nathan Hale and the Carver Center in Norwalk, CT.
KIDS’ FANS has been Nutrition Consultant to both CP Kids Nursery School in Chelsea Piers and Domus/Chester Addison Community Center.
In accordance with the Connecticut state mandated health curriculum, and supported by studies which show the correlation between student health and academic achievement, KIDS’ FANS hopes to fill the gap in schools, as well as in the communities in our region, by increasing awareness and improving health behaviors for students and their families. In addition, all programs are taught by Connecticut licensed Registered Dietitians/Nutritionists which distinguishes KIDS’ FANS from other nutrition education programs.
Community outreach is an integral part of helping KIDS’ FANS continue to promote healthy eating and physical activity and its presence at local health fairs and request for presentations is robust and ongoing.