The Alachua County Public School’s Head Start program teamed up with the University of Florida on Thursday to teach parents and children about the dangers of childhood obesity.
Head Start is a comprehensive early childhood program that helps low-income families with children going to preschool in Alachua County.
Some of the features the programs offer to families include sending children to see a doctor or a dentist.
Audrey Williams, health and nutrition services manager for Head Start, said the program focuses on other aspects of children’s lives other than school or grades to make sure they are successful.
“In order for a child to successfully be ready for school, they have to have all of their needs met,” she said. “Our early childhood program focuses on the whole child, making sure they are healthy and well, so they can learn in their learning environment.”
Head Start leaders said childhood obesity has become an increasing problems in their programs.
Child obesity has risen steadily over the past decade due to several factors like the low cost of unhealthy food, chemicals in processed food and less physical activity among kids, according to the Center for Disease Control.
The program’s kickoff event Thursday taught parents and children about obesity’s harmful effects and how they can combat it.
The forum discussed healthy food options and how to set healthy goals for families.
The children participated in a separate, interactive program that taught them how to be healthy.
Many people believe that healthy food is expensive, but Williams said there are ways for families to be healthy while living on a budget.
“There’s little things they can do on a daily basis,” she said. “It doesn’t take a lot of finances or resources.”
Jeremiah Davis, a Gainesville parent, said it is important for parents to realize these issues before it is too late.
“It’s good to start young and stay on top of things,” he said. “Once they get into middle school, times are going to change, and it’s best to be already involved so there is nothing new.”
Chris Alcantara edited this story online.