Hunting Park: The Body and Soul Program Pushes a Healthy Future for Youth

The kids actively listened to the HSSM members as they taught them about what healthy foods to eat. Many people believe that beauty is from the inside out. The members of Triumph Baptist Church’s Health and Social Services Ministry believe the same about health.

Triumph’s ministry, which is located at 16th Street and Germantown Avenue, is huge. There are hundreds of members from the surrounding area and with the organization’s volunteers and good hearts it has been making great efforts to better the lives of its neighbors. There are over a dozen different ministry groups and programs within Triumph. Body and Soul is a program developed and carried out since June.

Loren Carroll participated while her son learned about healthy eating.

“The purpose is to teach our youth how to eat healthy and for them to share their good habits in the future,” said Mary Weaver, the coordinator of Body and Soul.

A grant from Fox Chase Cancer Center has funded the healthy eating events, which the church has tried to have at least once a month since the start of the program. The high cost of advertising has complicated the continuation of the goals, but those involved and those who have participated will see to it that the program will carry on after the end of December, Body and Soul’s projected end time.

“This is a one-time program,” Weaver said. “That is unless our congregation or pastor asks us to continue and we can get more funding, but we will keep trying.”

Nearly 40 percent of Hunting Park’s population is comprised of children under the age of 18, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s neighborhood database. Between the number of children to feed and the high percentage of those with an income level below the poverty line, it can be tough to keep everyone eating healthy. Unfortunately, a lot of the cheapest foods are unhealthy.

Weaver spoke about how much fun the past  several months have been not only for the kids involved but the adults as well.

The kids actively listened to the members as they taught them about what healthy foods to eat.

“We’ve been able to be so creative in our events and come up with neat ways to keep the kids interested in healthy eating,” Weaver said. “We’ve been handing out free bags of fruit and providing different ideas for affordable meals to prepare at home to help easily include fruits and veggies in their daily diets.”

Some of the kids who have participated in the program have been children of volunteers, church members and their families and friends.

“This is the first event I’ve brought my son to since the start of the program,” said Loren Carroll, a parent and church member. “I’ve been hearing announcements about it in church. Next time I will be sure to tell other parents in the neighborhood, and if they can’t bring their kids I will volunteer to bring them. Everything we’ve learned today has been so beneficial.”

For the holiday season the members of Body and Soul have created a healthy interactive calendar for the kids to follow each day opposed to the junk-food calendars that are commonly seen in kids’ hands around this time of year. For example, some of the agendas for each day include things for the kids such as red and green veggie scavenger hunts and tips for parents on healthier ingredients to cook with.

Linette Hosendorf helped clean up after a Body and Soul event.

Another large component of the Body and Soul program is physical activity. According to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 2002 36 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 17, who are living in southeastern Pennsylvania, were at risk for obesity and 23 percent were considered obese. These numbers haven’t gone unnoticed with advocates like Michelle Obama encouraging communities throughout the country to lower the statistics and keep young people in good health and from community initiative.

“Body and Soul taught us a lot about keeping our bodies motivated and making sure we get in an hour of exercise each day,” Carroll said. “It’s really important to have all the components from exercise to healthy eating in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and that’s what I will have really brought away from this program.”

Results from an American Time Use Survey, presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010, showed that kids ages 15 and over averaged nearly three hours a day of watching TV. Kids are staying in and playing video games or watching TV more often than playing outdoors and participating in physical activity. This is a concern for many parents and the goal of the Body and Soul program is to break through to children while they are still young.

“The most rewarding part about this program is seeing the kids happy, coming out from behind the TV, putting the junk snacks away and becoming more healthy,” said Linette Hosendorf, a Body and Soul volunteer. “Kids are our future and if we can get through to them at a young age, maybe they can teach us too.”

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