We had the opportunity to speak with Sally Kuzemchak, a registered dietitian, educator, and freelance writer who has been featured on The Huffington Post, and magazines such as Parents, Fitness and Health. And as if that wasn’t enough to fill her plate, Sally also is a mom of two and blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. Connect with Sally here.
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
When my older son started sports I was shocked by the amount of junk food served on the sidelines after every game: cookies, chips, cupcakes and sports drinks after the kids barely broke a sweat! At first I didn’t want to speak up and rock the boat, but then I decided I had to—for his sake and for the sake of the other kids too. So I began asking coaches if we could establish a fruit/water-only snack policy for games. I was happy to see how receptive the coaches and parents were. Then I started looking around and noticing that junky snacks were seemingly everywhere—like camp and class parties. So I began working for change in those places and providing support and resources for parents on my blog to do the same in their own communities.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
I have been a volunteer on the Wellness Committee at my children’s school for the last five years, helping to provide programming that encourages kids to eat healthy foods and get more physical activity. I also began a campaign on my blog RealMomNutrition.com called Snacktivism, which empowers parents to work for positive change where kids and snacks are concerned. Kids get about 500 calories a day from snacks, mostly in the form of junk food and sweet drinks. So if parents can help bring about change in places like preschools, sports teams, churches and schools, children can start learning that “snack” doesn’t mean “junk.” I created a “Sports Snacktivism Handbook” on my blog that includes materials to help parents establish a fruit and water snack policy (or a no-snack policy) such as sample team and coach emails, an FAQ and a photo slideshow to pass on to other team parents and coaches. I also empower parents on my blog to push for healthier foods for class parties and in summer camps and provide resources for those as well.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
I’ve heard from people around the country who tell me they’re inspired by Snacktivism and that they’re creating change in their communities. It feels good to know that I’m helping some parents voice their concerns and frustrations and giving them helpful tools to make a difference.
Who is your role model in your work?
I really admire Casey Hinds, who seems to have endless amounts of persistence and energy when it comes to improving the food environment for kids. She stays at it, even when her audience isn’t on board and even when she’s the lone parent speaking up. She keeps her eye on the long-term goals and what’s best for children. I admire that because it can be hard when people disagree or push back against change. Emotions tend to run high when the topic of food is involved—and especially when parents feel like they’re being judged for the kinds of foods they’re bringing to school or sports games.
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?
I’m a child of the ‘70s, so I ate my fair share of Planters Cheez Balls and drank a lot of cherry Kool-Aid! But we also always had lots of fruit in the house. I loved going to the fruit market in the summers and going berry picking with my mom. Fresh fruit was one of my all-time favorites, and still is. Luckily my kids now love it too.
Each week, our own Prarthana Gurung speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Prarthana’s profile and contact her.