GILMANTON — Cameron Hamel, a Committee Chair for Cub Scout 242 in Gilmanton, is making a difference in the health of her Cub Scouts. Last fall, thanks to funding support from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, Hamel was invited to attend a training given by Healthy Kids Out of School, an initiative of ChildObesity180 at Tufts University, working with out-of-school-time programs to promote healthy snacks and physical activity. Since that training, Cameron has been working with her Cub Scouts to achieve the Healthy Unit Patch - a patch created by Healthy Kids Out of School to reward Scouts for having water, healthy snacks, and physical activity during their meetings.
In New Hampshire more than 25% of school age children are overweight or obese, and a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that as a result of this epidemic, children today may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Cameron Hamel's story is just one example of how Healthy Kids Out of School is combating childhood obesity across New Hampshire. And, her efforts are paying off - Hamel's Pack recently became the first in New England to complete the Healthy Unit Patch – and she hopes her Pack will be an inspiration for others.
Hamel started by selecting fun and engaging games that would allow the Scouts to be both physically and mentally active. A guessing game called Zero In, where the kids use body movements to accelerate gameplay, was a rampant success with her den. Not only did the game fill the Scouts with excitement, but it had the additional benefit of helping them focus the Scout's attention during the rest of the meeting. She now begins each meeting with Zero In as part of their warm up routine.
Hamel also served fresh fruits such as grapes, blueberries and apples, to get the kids excited about eating them together. "It's very important that children are exposed to new and healthy foods," says Hamel. "Oftentimes, a child may be resistant to trying something new, and that's why Cub Scouts is such a powerful platform for making these introductions. Children are much more likely to try something new when they're surrounded by friends who are also participating. The more we can expose them to these experiences now, the more receptive they'll be to making healthy choices in the future."