Making CHANGE with the Juniors

Submitted by Yingying Zhao

A curious group of youth grasp measuring spoons like pencils in a small kitchen at the Old Massett Youth Centre. It is awkward but also engaging and humorous! Aged nine to twelve, they cautiously scoop spoons full of creamy yogurt into their cups and delicately add frozen fruit and crunchy granola. Their laughter and friendly competition is captivating. The result is a creamy, crunchy, cold yogurt parfaits. Their dairy-rich confection was not only delicious but also healthy. The Juniors had just practiced how to count serving size using the Canadian Food Guide.

This is just a moment of what ‘CHANGE BC Juniors’ has to offer. Canadian Health Advanced by Nutrition and Graded Exercise (CHANGE) is a customized evidenced-based, healthy-lifestyle literacy program that mitigates and reverses Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems and subsequent heart disease. The CHANGE program empowers youth and adults, leads to more energy and less use of pharmaceuticals.

The Pacific Northwest Division of Family Practice is also leading a 12-month pilot CHANGE adult program as well as the CHANGE BC Juniors program thanks in part to financial contributions from Metabolic Syndrome Canada, University of BC’s Kinesiology department, fourth year kinesiology students and donated funds from local family physicians. Instilling lifelong health literacy in youth who may be at risk with a sedentary lifestyle is important to CHANGE. Learning about healthy living with a dual focus on physical activity and nutrition at a young age can inspire competency and participation in life, broaden one’s experience with the environment, and diversify interactions with the world and others.

However, adapting to healthier habits is no small task. It not only requires individual effort, but also the support of family, schools and community. To support youth in changing their ways  physical literacy programs are also happening from 2:30-4:30 on Tuesdays at the Old Massett Community Hall. Through organized play, both indoors and out, these sessions allow youth to develop skills such as hopping, throwing and running at their own pace. Increased physical literacy can lead to increased competency and self-confidence and diversify interactions with the environment and others and healthy snacks are provided.

‘“I Love to Eat” Youth Cooking’ is a program being held from 12:00 -2:00 on Thursdays at the Old Massett Youth Centre. This weekly cooking and gathering focuses on developing practical cooking skills including chopping, peeling, grating and more. Ingredients used are both land-based and grocery-bought. The sessions aim to provide youth with the experience of preparing a balanced meal in a home kitchen and teach them about healthy relationships with food and their bodies.

The CHANGE program is run by Yingying Zhao, a fourth-year Kinesiology student at the University of British Columbia. She grew up in Shanghai and has spent the last seven years living and learning in T’agwan Vancouver. She is enjoying her summer in Gaw exploring nature, experiencing the culture and spending time with dogs and friends over coffee. She believes “in the power of community and that the key to sustainable health lies in disease prevention, as opposed to disease treatment”.

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