By RON FANFAIR
Acting on the “Review on the Roots of Youth Violence” report that recommended the establishment of after-school programs to promote healthy nutrition and positive activity, the Ontario government has launched a new initiative to keep young people healthy and off the streets.
Students in some of the province’s high needs neighbourhoods will have the opportunity to improve their personal health and wellness while staying off the streets through the project that will be available in more than 270 sites in priority areas. It will benefit nearly 15,500 children and youth from Grades One to 12.
The programs include healthy eating and nutrition education to help combat childhood obesity, physical activity to encourage active lifestyles, personal health and wellness education to promote self-esteem and other activities to address specific priorities based on local community needs.
“The initiative will also help youth develop better skills to become more confident thinkers and doers,” said Ontario’s Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best. “This is just one more way the McGuinty government is committed to promoting and protecting the health of Ontario’s young people.”
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario chief executive officer David Sculthorpe estimates that 28 per cent of the province’s children are overweight or obese, putting them at a higher risk of developing heart diseases, high blood pressure and Type Two diabetes.
“We are very pleased with Ontario’s After-School initiative as it is an important step towards removing barriers that prevent Ontario’s children and especially those most at-risk from being active and healthy,” he added.
Ontario’s Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne said the program will complement the work that the province is doing as it moves forward to implement its plan for full-days learning for four and five-year-olds while recently appointed Minister of Children and Youth Services Laurel Broten said the initiative fits in with the government’s poverty reduction strategy to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 25 per cent over five years.
“We are giving young people in priority neighbourhoods the tools and supports they need to help them reach their full potential,” she said.