Healthy snacks with a side of responsibility

Most parents agree that getting your child to choose a piece of fresh fruit over a candy bar is an uphill battle. A majority of kids, and even adults, have a hard time making healthy choices part of their everyday routine. But a partnership between Parkview Whitley Hospital’s Community Health Improvement (CHI) program and The Center for Whitley County Youth in Columbia City strives to do just that.
For the past three years, The Center has served hundreds of Columbia City middle and high school students who come to The Center after school for homework help, games, activities and the all-important afterschool snack.
“Before partnering with Parkview Whitley, we attempted to offer healthy afterschool snacks for our kids, but given our limited budget, it was a really difficult task,” Center director, Jeff Wike said. “With the supplemental grant from the hospital, we can offer kids fresh fruits or veggies, granola bars or something similar that are much better alternatives to a bag of chips or cookies.”
Providing healthy afterschool snacks is just one of a two-prong approach that has been implemented to promote healthy eating in The Center’s tweens and teens. Students also have the opportunity to buy their own snacks at The Center’s Down Under Café, a concession stand run entirely by the high school students.
“The café gives the older students a unique opportunity to build real-world job skills while they are here,” Wike said. “We treat the stand as its own small business. Students learn soft skills like interacting with customers, as well as making change, keeping inventory and basic accounting.”
While the concession stand does offer candy bars and soda, The Center uses funds from Parkview Whitley to supplement the cost of healthier fare.
“The fact of the matter is that healthy food can be more expensive to buy and provide. We use Parkview funds to help defray the cost of offering fresh fruit or protein bars. These items may be marked down to only 25 cents versus a Milky Way that may be 75 cents. That extra nudge may make a kid more apt to make the healthier choice.”
Parkview Whitley Hospital Community Health Improvement Manager, Lea Ann Herron, agrees with this assessment. “We are really proud of the partnership that we’ve forged with The Center for Whitley County Youth. The Center serves as a vital place for students to learn, grow, and build relationships, and knowing that Parkview Whitley CHI dollars are helping supply healthy snacks while helping kids make good choices is a win-win.”

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