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AHA fosters and supports community efforts to make healthy eating and physical activity the way of life in Wake County.

Partner in the Spotlight: 5210 Y Healthy Hero Program

Students at York Elementary School made grape structures as part of the 5 week activities focusing on 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Students at York Elementary School structures at York made grape structures as part of the 5 week activities focusing on 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Physical activity and fun are a regular part of the game plan at YMCA of the Triangle After School programs, but for six weeks in March and April, a new program showcased healthy habits for more than 5,300 children at 72 after school sites in Wake County and beyond. The YMCA, in collaboration with WakeMed, implemented the new 5210 Y Healthy Hero Program, based on Let’s Go!, a nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program.

“We always offer healthy tips in our parent communication pieces and  encourage children and families in our programs to exercise and eat healthy. This was our first effort to package a program that emphasized eating more fruits and veggies, less screen time, more activity and zero sugary drinks,” said Susan Pettengill, Vice President of Healthy Living for YMCA of the Triangle.  “Most of these things happen at home, outside of the Y walls, so we wanted to get families thinking about these things and commit to making positive changes. One of our long-range goals is to reduce childhood obesity, so we’re trying to be a resource and help the community be healthier,” she continued.

A Healthy Hero at Green Elementary's After School Program, operated by the A.E. Finley YMCA, giving out stickers and making personal invitations to participate in the 5210 program.

A Healthy Hero at Green Elementary’s After School Program, operated by the A.E. Finley YMCA, giving out stickers and making personal invitations to participate in the 5210 program.

Pettengill said the idea for the 5210 Healthy Hero program stemmed from efforts to implement the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards in a creative way. She and a team of 10 YMCA and WakeMed staff took the basics of the 5210 educational components (5 or more fruits and vegetables a day, 2 hours or less of screen time each day, 1 hour of active play each day and 0 sugary drinks) and created a curriculum and toolkit packed with activities and communications for family engagement. “We showed after school staff a great video to explain why this matters, we tested the activities out in advance, and provided a toolkit and Healthy Hero costume kits for each site so they could easily implement the program.”

After School staff committed to be good role models, and families pledged their support and tracked progress on weekly challenges during the 5210 campaign. Feedback has been positive from staff because the toolkit made it easy for them to roll out, and families appreciated the emphasis. One parent shared this with the YMCA: “Brayden specifically has asked to eat 5 veggies. Although he holds his nose, he is eating them! You guys have really got their attention, and I think it is cool.”

As part of the program, parents were asked what support they needed. Resources and pre-packaged messages were developed to meet those needs. This information will be part of ongoing support available to families from the YMCA After School staff.  Each year, the YMCA will promote 5210 through targeted messages and fun incentives.

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