A family-oriented healthy weight program that was developed in the United Kingdom, is was designed to help children who are above their ideal weight lead a healthier lifestyle.
Jacqueline Bancla-Lugo is quick to answer what she misses most since her family changed how and what they were eating.
“I miss the cupcakes,” said the 8-year-old student at Glendale Elementary. “I love cupcakes.”
Jacqueline and her family are one of three at Glendale Elementary involved with the MEND (Mind Energy Nutrition Do It) program. A family-oriented healthy weight program that was developed in the United Kingdom, it was designed to help children who are above their ideal weight lead a healthier lifestyle.
The Independence School District is partnering with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, the YMCA of Greater Kansas City and the MEND Foundation to offer the program at five elementary schools – Glendale, Mill Creek, Blackburn, Luff and Three Trails. Plans are to expand the program to other elementary schools later.
MEND is divided into four sections by age – three sections for children and one for adults. The 10-week program is geared toward overweight children and their parents who are at greater risk of developing serious, chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes. During a pair of two-hour sessions each week, they learn healthy eating behaviors, exercise techniques and nutrition, as well as healthy lifestyle changes for the entire family.
“We sent a flier out toward the beginning of the school year to see what families were interested in joining our group,” said Maleigh Halsey, MEND coordinator at Glendale. “We teach families about nutrition and give them info to change their behaviors in order to live a more healthy lifestyle.”
Among the activities that MEND families participate in is a grocery store tour, which the Glendale families completed at Price Chopper. The idea was to look at several aisles in the store to find the best “MEND-friendly” products. Some of the results were surprising.
“The yogurt aisle was tough,” said Dianna Groves, Independence. “I thought I knew what was healthy, but then you start really looking at the labels and there is a lot of sugar in yogurt. The cheeses was actually the easiest, which was also a surprise.”
Estella Bancla-Lugo said she wanted to join MEND with her two daughters in order to stop the cycle of weight issues in her family. She said over the last few weeks, the family has completely change what they eat, moving toward more home-cooked meals and eliminating fast food and high-sugar items.
“Out menus have changed. Our choices have changed,” she said. “It is so easy to say we are just going to stop at a fast food restaurant on the way home. Now, we have to plan and go to the grocery store so that we can prepare something healthy.”
Following the 10-week program, participants will be introduced to MEND World, in which families will learn how to continue building on their healthy lifestyle through eating and physical activity. The YMCA will lead this portion of the program.
Page 2 of 2 - Bianca Bancla-Lugo said she feels great after her family has changed to a more healthy lifestyle. She said she has lost about 5 pounds and is happy with the decision to join MEND.
“It makes me feel better,” said the 11-year-old. “I think I have learned to love myself more than I used to because I feel better. I can wear almost anything, and I know that the changes we have made are good ones.”