Salina — A project from Heartland Programs will try to teach families in need how to create healthier meals and exercise programs.
It's Bake and Shake, and a $10,000 General Mills Champions Grant will finance the program, one of 50 chosen from thousands that applied for the grants. The grants were given for innovative ways to improve the health of children ages 2 to 20.
Heartland Programs aids single-parent, low-income families in Saline, Dickinson and Ellsworth counties, other low-income families and families of children with disabilities.
Rita Gedney, Heartland program coordinator, said they began to consider the Bake and Shake Program after they discovered the percentage of childhood obesity in children ages 3 to 5 in the program at enrollment was well above the national average -- 23 percent compared with 15 percent nationally.
Thanks to better nutrition and some exercise at Heartland Programs, by December that number dropped to 16 percent and was 13 percent by the end of spring.
Roxanne Bell, a registered dietician with the program, said the results were predictable.
"We're not a weight-loss program here at Heartland Programs, but we do just tend to increase exercise a little bit -- and healthy menus," she said.
The program, which begins in January, will teach some families how to make simple, low-cost, nutritious meals in two-hour weekly lessons.
The course likely will last six weeks. At the end of every lesson, the parents will be given ingredients and basic cooking equipment, such as pots, pans and cooking spoons. There will be extra prizes and incentives for families that attend all of the sessions.
Gedney said some of the families were under the misconception that healthy cooking cost more than fast food and was too complicated. She said the problem wasn't limited to the needy, however.
"Across the board, people just don't cook like they used to," she said. "What we want to show people is that it can be easy and still nutritious."
While the parents are baking, their children will be shaking. The children will have the opportunity to create their own exercise videos. Bell said having their own faces on the screen would encourage the children to be more active.