I am a local Registered Nurse (RN) and I work for HealthKeeperz Hospice. I have four children and ever since I was a child myself, I have adored kids. My house is always full of my own children and their friends, and I love it. I was born and raised in Africa (namely, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and when I immigrated with David, my husband, to America I worked at Johns Hopkins Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which is where I first learned about the growing national epidemic of Juvenile-Onset Type 2 Diabetes, caused by childhood obesity.
As a nurse, I had already been caring for adult patients who were suffering from the terrible life-long consequences of diabetes, and I felt compelled to be a part of the solution to protect children from diabetes as much as I could.
From my research I learned that a significant amount of children’s daily calories come from snacks and beverages, so I developed Snacklight©, a free healthy snacking program and website for families to use.
I conducted research and uncovered the following findings.
1. One in five school-aged children are overweight. Very often these children will become obese as adults.
2. Eighty percent of children with Type 2 diabetes are overweight.
3. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the first time in modern history, it is estimated that today’s generation of children will have a shorter life span than their parents.
As I began to think about the food plate and the food pyramid, it dawned on me that all children understand that the color red means “danger/stop” and green means “go,” and so I decided to formulate a food-based program on a traffic light.
This is how I designed it:
RED snacks (danger/STOP) are high fat, high salt, and high sugar snacks that should only be consumed once a week.
ORANGE snacks (warning) are lower fat, lower salt and lower sugar snacks that can be eaten two to three times a week.
Green snacks (GO, GO, GO) are healthy no fat, no added salt, and no added sugar snacks that can be eaten daily.
Snacklight© was created with fun, educational, and interactive activities that children can do with their parents and that educators can share with their students. For the kids, parents, and educators there is a song, a star chart, a make-your-own snack light, a word search, and food faces. For parents, there is a shopping guide and questions they can answer and think about ways to help improve their children’s health.
Snacklight© won a national ‘Outstanding Health Program’ award from the Southern Medical Association Alliance and has been utilized at 54 elementary schools in Cumberland County, the Poe Center for Health Education in Raleigh which has served over one million children, Cape Fear Valley Hospital, and Better Health of Cumberland County to teach adult diabetic patients how to make healthier choices.
My hope is one day, Snacklight© will be taught nationally alongside the United States Department of Agriculture’s My Plate. I want to continue spreading nutrition awareness with my program to reduce the scary statistics and lessen the number of children suffering this awful, life-long disease. For more information and to find the resources for the activities for children, parents, and educators visit snacklight.org.