Childhood obesity is a global health issue that has grown at an astonishing rate. One in four Canadian children is overweight. Obese children are more likely to have longer-ranging health problem such as high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, asthma attacks and kidney problems. Overweight and obesity are also associated with poor self-esteem and depression. Kids in the Kitchen is a unique and interactive program, designed to empower children to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Spearheaded by the Association of Junior Leagues International, it builds upon a heritage of impact Junior Leagues have had on family nutrition for the past 108 years. The program, which the Junior League of Calgary started as Junior Chefs in 2001, is now being offered by the JLHB and other independent Junior Leagues in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
Proudly, in 2011, Canada's 'Looneyspoons Sisters', Janet and Greta Podleski, joined the Canadian campaign. As kids are more likely to eat meals they have had a hand in preparing. Kids in the Kitchen involves children in the preparation of meals that are tasty and affordable, by making it fun and giving them tasks they can handle. The program also promotes the benefits of family dining. Recent studies indicate that family dining improves the dietary habits of children.
The Podleskis are dedicated advocates of healthy living, preparing nutritious and delicious foods and were drawn to the program because of its basic premise, says Greta, that kids belong in the kitchen. "I believe it's important to get kids involved in the kitchen when they're young," she says. "Most kids find cooking fun and fascinating...it's like an edible science project". "Getting kids to appreciate fresh, natural and healthy foods starts in the kitchen! If we can make cooking and nutrition a fun and tasty topic, then maybe we can inspire children to choose a healthy diet over a diet of fries, chicken fingers and sugary drinks".
Junior Leagues also offer a comprehensive Kids in the Kitchen website that features kid-friendly, nutritious recipes from celebrities, chefs and athletes and an educational interactive game provided by Cartoon Network. Kids and their parents can also access nutrition and exercise tips and nutritional quizzes.