January 10, 2018

On today's show we visit with Cathy Kruse, the Director of Communications at the nonprofit, Girls on the Run Chicago.  Later in the show, Kimberly and Chad bring us this week's Hero of the Week segment.

The fitness habits a child develops are likely to last a lifetime, and studies have shown that exercise can be beneficial to a child’s overall health while promoting a positive body image.

It's a disturbing fact that kids fitness levels are plummeting, childhood obesity levels are at record highs, and the overall health and wellness of the family is on a steep decline.  Children are more sedentary now more than ever, and when children are inactive on a regular and long-term basis, the stage is set for health problems to creep up on them later in life.

The percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6–19) has obesity.

How Did We Get Here?

In an effort to “standardize student achievement and close achievement gaps,” the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was passed. As a result, school districts have revised their curricula to increase emphasis on core academic subjects thereby reducing instruction time on nonacademic subject matters, such as physical education, arts, and music. With even recess cut, this decreases the amount of physical activity children are exposed to during school hours.

Today, less than half of youth aged 6 to 7 years meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services. The recommendation is at least one hour of physical activity each day. Physical activity facilitates a child’s cognitive development and academic success.

Cathy Kruse at Girls on the Run Chicago
Cathy Kruse at Girls on the Run Chicago

While in Chicago early last month, we had the opportunity to visit with Cathy Kruse, the Director of Communications at the nonprofit, Girls on the Run Chicago.  

Girls on the Run is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.  They inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.  Girls on the Run-Chicago (GOTRC) is the largest council of Girls on the Run International.

Girls face social pressures and conflicting messages about how they should act and who they should be. Studies show that by adolescence, girls' confidence drops about twice as much as boys'. Friendships become more complicated and challenging, girls' perception of their academic ability declines, the likelihood of anxiety and depression increases and participation in physical activity plummets.

Physical activity is woven into their program to inspire an appreciation for fitness and healthy habits and teach life skills including treating others with care, practicing gratitude and managing emotions. Each season culminates with a Girls on the Run 5K event.


Brearley School Teens
Brearley School Teens

Kimberly and Chad highlight inspiring stories of determined children doing things in their communities.  Today they bring us the remarkable story of teens who created an app to end hunger in US schools.

Alyssa Kapasi, Emma Yang, Fiona Xu, Ivy Mao, and Gabrielle Rich from Brearley School in New York City came up with a way to leverage technology to help end school lunch hunger.

They created what is called the “Food for Thought app” which lets parents who buy meals for their kids using a refillable school lunch debit card online – anonymously pay for another hungry student’s meal. The app asks the parent upon checkout if they would like to anonymously give 2 or 3 dollars to another student in their community so that they can eat lunch.  The app makes it incredibly easy for parents to think of helping other kids when re-loading their child’s lunch account.

New York City is filled with restaurants, pubs and food trucks at every corner; yet the number of missed meals as a result of poverty in New York alone is 242 million meals per year, and ever increasing.  13 million children in the United States live in food insecure households and some New York counties have food insecurity rates as high as 18%. Approximately 1 in every 5 children in New York City depend on soup kitchens or pantries. Many of our peers do not know where their next meal will come from, and the unforgiving school lunch system does not provide the security a child should receive from their learning environment.

The girls have already secured funding for the prototype via their GoFundMe campaign and a $2,000 grant from the Allstate Foundation Good Starts Young Rally. In addition to applying for nonprofit status, they hope to begin beta testing within the next few months.