Lifelong Learning Volunteers Teach Children to Eat Healthy and Stay Fit

Children and seniors are getting active and healthy together thanks to the CATCH Healthy Habits program.

Supported in part by a grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF), the CATCH Healthy Habits program enlists teams of specially trained older adult volunteers to work with children in after-school and summer programs in school- and community-based settings. Teams of 5-8 adults lead children in a 60 minute lesson each week consisting of a nutritious snack, health lesson and physical activity.

CATCH Healthy Habits is a program offered through VOICE (Volunteers Organized in Community Engagement). VOICE is a program of the Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning.

Data from the CATCH Healthy Habits sessions held in the WPHF catchment areas shows the program has resulted in successfully improving youth and seniors’ eating habits, increasing levels of participation in physical activities, reducing screen time, and fostering development of positive intergenerational relationships.

CATCH Healthy Habits at Rollins was established in response to the rising rate of childhood obesity in the United States. Central Florida mirrors this epidemic as the 2013 Professional Research Consultants Child & Adolescent Health Needs Assessment conducted on behalf of Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando found that 26.7 percent of children ages 5 to 17 in Orange County, Florida, are overweight or obese.

Adults are not immune to the obesity epidemic either. According to the Healthy Central Florida study, The State of Our Health 2015, 26 percent of adults (age 18 and older) in the study’s targeted communities of Winter Park, Maitland, and Eatonville are obese.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020, children and adolescents who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for developing diabetes and heart disease. They are likely to stay overweight or obese into adulthood, placing them at increased risk for serious chronic diseases. The CATCH Healthy Habits program and its team of older adult volunteers is making a very positive impact for both children and older adults on reducing this epidemic and lowering the risk of chronic diseases.

“I love being able to connect with the children and enrich their lives with healthy habits and smart food choices,” says Marie Lee Jenkins, a Rollins CATCH Healthy Habits volunteer .

“We are very grateful to the Winter Park Health Foundation for their generous support of the program,” says Holly Tanyhill, coordinator for CATCH Healthy Habits. “It is so great to see such a valuable program provide an opportunity for children and seniors to learn healthy habits together.”

Adults 50 and older who are interested in volunteering or learning more about CATCH Healthy Habits may call (407) 646-2459 or write htanyhill@rollins.edu.

If you are interested in bringing CATCH Healthy Habits to your school or organization, please contact Healthy Kids Today.