Ontario’s Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best last week showed off some of her culinary skills for students in a Regent Park-area public school.
Best joined the Grades One to Six students in the Lord Dufferin Junior and Senior Public School’s cooking program to prepare and serve a healthy snack in the school’s kitchen.
The program is part of the province’s after-school initiative offered at nearly 270 sites in priority neighbourhoods. It includes 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 experts in the child development field have said to us that the key period between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. is a time when kids are not fully engaged,” said Best. “We need to keep them active and engaged in all types of activities to help them become better citizens and also aid them in developing good habits of eating healthy.
“It’s critical that we impart that on their little brains and make them aware health is more important than wealth. What we are doing now is catching them before they develop bad habits.”
In the last budget, the Ontario government announced that $10 million will be provided annually for a childhood obesity strategy to encourage children to eat healthy and be physically active.
Consultation with other ministries, experts and stakeholders confirmed the need for an integrated and holistic approach to address multiple risk factors, including obesity.
“This initiative will also help youth develop better skills to become more confident thinkers and doers,” added Best. “This is just one more way the McGuinty government is committed to promoting and protecting the health of Ontario’s young people.”
The after-school initiative is a key component under Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy to help break the cycle of poverty by supporting young people in low-income families, including populations such as Aboriginal communities and newcomers, improving opportunities for youths to be more physically active and ensuring there are no financial barriers to participation in programs.