GRANTS – Laura Jaramillo, Future Foundations Family Center executive director, said the center was awarded a five-year Community Transformation Grant (CTG) recently.
The grant aims to create healthier communities through environmental policy and programmatic changes that support healthy eating, active living, and tobacco-free lifestyles, and other services in the prevention of childhood and youth obesity, type- 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
The center applied for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control grant in partnership with the New Mexico Department Health (NMDOH).
“Last year the center received $40,000, and we hope to get the same amount this year,” said Jaramillo.
Cibola County, ten other New Mexico counties, and four tribal communities were selected to participate in the state’s CTG plan. According to Jaramillo the counties participants were selected, “based on the need and for readiness to implement.”
The FFFC had to provide the information, according to Jaramillo, as they were putting together the proposal, based on the center’s information on what they had already done according to the grant’s aim.
“We were told that they (the State) was awarded the grant this past year, and we began talking about what we were going to do together in December 2011,” recalled Jaramillo.
She explained that the grant’s initiative is focused on the following three areas:
1. Food systems
2. Built environment, interpreted as CTG communities working to establish joint-use agreement between a school district and municipality to create welcoming, safe and active school yards
3. School wellness
“In the food systems core strategy,” explained Jaramillo, “they provided us a couple of options such as: the creation of community gardens, school gardens, farmers providing fresh produce to the schools and a farmers’ market. We looked at what we could manage and what our community was ready to do.”
She noted, “As part of the ‘Built Environment’, we looked at the bike-ability and the walk-ability of the community. We have a lot of issues regarding the lack of sidewalks.”
The director added that the “Built Environment” issues are currently on the radar screen of the City of Grants. Most recently a consultant firm provided the city council with a proposal regarding the amount of money it would take to improve the streets and the sidewalks,
“Currently,” Jaramillo said, “several communities in New Mexico are planning a- walk- to- school event. On Oct. 3, a pilot program with Mesa View Elementary School, which is next door to FFFC, will be held. We are encouraging youngsters to walk to school that day and to have parents walk with them if they have safety concerns.”
For the children who ride the bus they will have an activity, once they get to school at 7:30 a.m., which is focused on walking around the playground.
The class with the most participants will get a “smoothie” party and extra recess time the following week.
U.S. Senator Tom Udall will be a special guest at Mesa View on Oct 12. He will take part in the pre-kindergarten playground groundbreaking ceremony.
A 2011 bill adopted by Congress, cited as “Promoting Health As Youth Skills In Classrooms And Life Act,” which Udall sponsored and was co-sponsored with U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, publicized the following findings:
1. Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States
2. Researchers estimate that the medical costs of the obesity epidemic may total $270,000,000,000 annually
3. More than one-third of children and adolescents are estimated to be overweight or obese
4. Of all deaths in this country from major chronic disease, 23 percent were linked to sedentary lifestyles that now begin at childhood
5. Overweight adolescents have a 70- to 80-percent chance of becoming overweight adults, increasing their risk for chronic disease, disability, and death
6. Studies show that children born today, for the first time in two centuries, have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
“Some of our schools are conducting BMI (Body Mass Index) tests. These tests compare your weight to your height and rate whether you are in the obese rate or a healthy rate,” explained Jaramillo.
She said one factor related the increase in childhood obesity is their lifestyle. “Youngsters today are more sedentary with the videos and technology, which leads to obesity.”
The FFFC director recalled that the Mesa View principal has told her that he regularly sees parents who live right across the street drive their children to school.
On Oct. 18, the Grants High School youth council will participate in a school cleanup day.
They will work at the Mesa View playground painting the basketball goals and putting on new nets to make the playground more usable, according to Jaramillo.
Call 285-3542 for more information.